As a first-generation college student, Dannelle Kirvin has made a huge impact on campus every year she has been at the University of New Mexico. Majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in criminology, she came to UNM knowing exactly what she wanted with her heart set on making a difference and standing up for what's right.
Kirven held a variety of different leadership positions — President of Zeta Phi Beta sorority and President of the Black Student Union (BSU). Since the fall of 2015, she held a work-study position in the computer lab of African American Student Services (AASS), but she recently started working there as a professional support intern.
"Just becoming a part of something that is bigger than yourself, accomplishing a goal and getting support from all types of different people," Kirven said. "Even people who were not part of my organization welcomed me to Greek life, and it really molded me into the leader I am today."
For Kirven, the most challenging experience during her time in college was being a social activist as a student.
"I really wanted us to have equality on campus in every space and be represented on campus, and that was really hard because it’s hard to be a student and juggle your mental health, your physical health and also being an advocate for other students," Kirven said.
Kirven said it was tough to manage, but she had a really good support system with everything she was involved with.
"It's been a little overwhelming, but in a good way," Kirven said. "This has been my dream since I was little to graduate college, so I feel like I’m finally completing my dream and I'm just thankful and excited for what's next."
After graduation, Kirven plans on continuing work as an AASS professional support intern until her contract is up in August 2020. She said she's going to take a year off before thinking about looking into graduate school — hoping to work with students who do marketing for universities.
Throughout her undergraduate experience, Kirven said part of what makes her story so unique is that she has had to face dealing with the loss of her cousin and uncle, as well as two of her friends and one of her fraternity brothers.
"I feel like part of the reason why I try to work so hard and stay dedicated to everything that I’m in is to honor their memory, to continue to move forward and make sure that I’m someone they can be proud of," Kirven said.
Public communications and Africana studies junior Miles Blakemore has been one of Kirven’s close friends since they met two years ago at an annual back to school barbecue. From there, he says they clicked right away and spent a lot of time together at the AASS center.
"The first time I met Dannelle, she was super sweet to me and very nice, and then the next day after that we just clicked immediately which was like a huge standout to me," Blakemore said.
He also said Kirven helped him a lot with classwork and getting accustomed to the dynamics of UNM after he transferred from CNM. He said she supported him when he entered the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated organization.
"Danielle is passionate about her work. If you give her a task, she will be dedicated to get it done with 110% effort," Blakemore said.
One of the big things Blakemore says Kirven did to make an impact on campus was to help create the Black Living Learning Community in Coronado Hall. It's a safe space for black students living in the dorm to be around others who have similar aspirations or majors and connect with each other for support.
"I always want to make sure that she's good because she’s always making sure that I'm good," Blakemore said. "She’s definitely like a big sister influence on me. If I know she's good, then I know ultimately I’m going to be okay."
Brandi Stone, the interim director of the AASS, oversees the day to day operations in the office in order to provide resources and support services to retain and graduate black students. Kirven said that Stone was a big mentor for her throughout her college experience, but Stone said Kirven was the one who helped everyone else be successful with how mature and encouraging she is.
"I have seen Dannelle grow in so many different capacities, but I think the most important one is that way she uses her voice to advocate on behalf of others," Stone said. "As somebody who supervises her, I’ve seen her make a huge impact in our center as far as the welcoming and friendliness of our office to students."
Kirven has had a lot of support from every organization she was involved in. From her community at the AASS and BSU, to her sisters in the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, she seems to have found the key to success by surrounding herself with like-minded individuals who she can rely on like family.
Daniel Ward is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @wordsofward34