Vargas is from the south side of Chicago and attended high school at Jones College Preparatory. She came to the College because she “didn’t want to stay in the city, but I didn’t want to go far because I’m close to my family. This campus gives me a home away from home with easy access to my family.”
Vargas also followed her instinct that Lake Forest College was “the place I needed to be to become the person I wanted to become.” She has grown in her four years here and thanks her extensive curricular and extra-curricular opportunities for that. The excellence she has demonstrated in these areas, in fact, is why she earned the award, which is presented to one senior from each of the four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities in Illinois.
Vargas, a Chicago Public Schools Scholar and Honors Fellow at the College, said she was quiet in high school. She still considers herself an introvert, but now she’s more prepared to be the first person to make a comment or propose an idea during class or a meeting.
“I’m OK with having sort of the spotlight on me now. It used to make me very uncomfortable,” she said.
Vargas is in the spotlight quite often. Consider her activities and accolades: she’s been on the Dean’s List for three consecutive years, and she is a Student Ambassador, a member of the Intercultural Advisory Group, and a member of For Latinas, By Latinas. She is involved in student organizations including Latinos Unidos and was a DJ for the College’s radio station WMXM for two years.
She also has served as both a mentor and student coordinator for the First Connection Pre-orientation Program. That’s how she first met Leslie Turner, assistant director of the Office of Intercultural Relations, who she invited to be her special guest for the Student Laureate Ceremony.
Vargas is most proud of being a founding member of Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority Incorporated, the first Latina-focused sorority at Lake Forest College.
The Spanish and politics double-major has been equally as busy in her academic life. She studied abroad in Granada for a semester her junior year, an experience she called “challenging, but worth it” because it allowed her to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses in an unfamiliar environment. Also memorable to her is a border studies class she took with Professor Carolyn Tuttle, director of the Border Studies Program, that brought her to the United States-Mexican border last spring. There, she learned about food justice.
Justice is where Vargas sees herself in the future. She currently is investigating graduate schools for programs in social justice or public policy with plans to later work at a community-based not-for-profit.
“I feel passionate about anything related to helping others become educated and have the ability to speak up about something,” she said.
Vargas has appreciated Lake Forest College for the flexibility and time to enroll in classes outside of her double-major. For example, she has taken classes in gender studies, art, philosophy, and communication. Her public speaking course really helped her to step out of her comfort zone, she says.
“All of the professors I’ve had are really passionate about what they’re teaching,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you hear from someone who really cares about that topic.”