The first member of his family to attend college, Luis arrived at North Central with limited English skills. He credits Megan Paustian, visiting assistant professor of English, with helping him from his first day of class. “I had to learn to write essays,” he admits. “She showed confidence in me and was behind me all the way.”
Luis’ efforts to explore the lives of the working poor led him to Guatemala, where—as a Richter Grant recipient—he gained firsthand knowledge about how business is only as good as its human element.
“There’s always a beginning,” he says. “It takes a lot of dedication and love to make a cup of coffee, starting with growing the fruit. The people of Guatemala face a lot of poverty and hunger, but they work hard to continue their rich history and tradition of making coffee.”
Luis reported on his fieldwork at the annual Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research. He is also president of NCC’s Best, a socially conscious, direct trade coffee and craft business.
And his enthusiasm for learning is contagious. “He would often come to office hours just to say how much his ‘mind was blown’ by the opportunities to confront new ideas,” says Jennifer Keys, professor of sociology.
Luis describes himself as “transformed” by his experience at North Central. “It’s a small community where everyone is united as one,” he enthuses. “I want to get my master’s degree in public policy. I’m hoping to stay in Chicago and enact change to help the poor people who are struggling in their lives.”
The 42nd annual award was presented at the historic Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Nov.12. The student Lincoln Laureate is an annual award by The Lincoln Academy of Illinois honoring outstanding seniors from each of the state’s four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities, and one student from the community colleges in Illinois.