Northwestern’s “Vision for Diversity” is rooted in embracing diversity, lamenting human brokenness, reconciling with one another and embodying shalom. This is what intrigued Martha Draayer, NW’s Hispanic Community Liaison, about the college.
Draayer, an ’09 alum, is the first to fill a position at NW focused on building Hispanic relations with the college.
“I was drawn to NWC’s vision for diversity and vision for the position of Hispanic Community Liaison. The opportunity to help develop a brand-new position on campus was exciting. I’m also an alum and have always considered NWC home.”
On campus, Draayer works with students on what hospitality looks like for Latinx students, as well as with different departments on campus with a variety of projects. Off campus, Draayer works with organizations that wish to partner with NW and the college’s vision for diversity.
In a typical week, Draayer meets with students, holds meetings with community partners and develops programs. These programs both educate on and celebrate diverse perspectives, along with working with area pastors to bridge-build with the local Latinx congregation.
One of these efforts is the Latin Cuisine Cooking Classes, a four-week course where students learned how to make their own meals from a local Latina, Lucy Martinez, owner of Trejo’s Catering.
“It gave me more insight and a deeper understanding to authentic Latin cuisine,” participant Riley Rasmussen said. “Trejo’s Catering, along with Martha and Neftali Ramirez, created authentic food, something I haven’t experienced at American-Mexican restaurants before. The Campus Ministry Team has began to integrate this authentic food into our meetings.”
A recent effort by Draayer is the PIECE 1:1 tutoring program, an opportunity for volunteers to teach English to an English Language Learner, a way for the NW population to further build bridges amidst the Latinx community.
“PIECE was inspired by seeing a need in the local community for adult ELL learners to have English classes that were tailored to their individual rate of acquisition,” Draayer said. “The PIECE team trains any individual in the community willing to donate their time to tutor an adult EL student while building authentic and reciprocal relationships.”
Recently, Draayer has begun an intentional conversation about barriers and division. Students who wish to participate will read “The God Who Sees”, a book that will discuss immigration from a Biblical perspective. Draayer’s role on campus helps draw students into these difficult but necessary conversations as a way to build bridges between cultures.
Outside of NW, Draayer continues her work of establishing relationships with the Latinx population.
One non-profit she is working with is CASA, the Center for Assistance, Service and Advocacy. This non-profit’s goal is to promote healthy and diverse communities through empowerment, education and advocacy. Draayer has been a part of multiple programs through CASA: National Night Out, Orange City’s Festival Latino, the Juntos program and monthly gatherings with local law enforcement who are working on getting to know Latinx residents.
“The Juntos program seeks to support high school Latinx students and their parents to plan for what comes after high school,” Draayer said.
For freshman Linsy Gonzalez Marcelo, Draayer has become a role model.
“I met Martha at an immigration conference here at NW my junior or senior year of high school,” Linsy said. “I have worked alongside Martha in helping to advocate and create more ways for our Hispanic community and students to be involved. Having a Hispanic Liaison is important because representation is important. NW values diversity and having Martha as our Hispanic Liaison supports that.”
For Draayer, she has a vision for what she’d like NW to achieve.
“The rate of growth within the Latinx population is huge and is changing our community demographics. I envision Northwestern as a place where cultural and linguistical differences are seen as beautiful and something to praise God for instead of something odd, othered or different,” Draayer said. “My hope is that everyone feels equally welcome on campus, as worthy individuals made in the image of God, with God-given gifts and talents that are worth celebrating.”