"It was destiny." That’s how Priscilla Contreras
describes becoming a student at St. Bonaventure University.
First paired with Bona’s through a combination of hard work and the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, the senior journalism and English double major from the Bronx now considers St. Bonaventure home.
“I’ve made friends here throughout the years who are no longer just friends,” she said. “They are family to me."
For Contreras, it feels like “just yesterday” that she arrived as an undeclared major with no connection to campus. Now she proudly claims two majors — journalism and English — and holds an “honorary office” in the hallway on the second floor of the Jandoli School’s Murphy Hall.
Her adviser, Dr. Denny Wilkins, professor of journalism, posted the sign that reads “The Office of Priscilla” in recognition of the many hours she spends studying there.
“He did that during my sophomore year when I was taking JMC 201 and 202. Those were hard classes for me and he’s a tough grader,” Contreras said. “I would walk into his office, ask for help, and then go back to my little office until I got it right. Those two classes made me a better writer.”
Wilkins also gives her and his other advisees “a word to live by” each semester, she said, with the expectation that they each share what it was like living with the word.
Composure. Peace. Poise. Purpose. Imagine. These are the words Contreras has lived with for the past few semesters. Of them, peace has been the most powerful for her. “I was going through a rough time when he gave the word to me. It reminded me to slow down, to have peace at mind and peace at heart,” she said. “It meant so much to me.”
Wilkins has appreciated watching Contreras come into her own. “Priscilla is a young, talented, hard-working student who fully understands what it means to be a Bonnie. There is no one she will not help. There is no one she will not find common ground with,” Wilkins shared via email. “I enjoyed having her in my classes (and as my advisee), and I’ll be sad when graduation takes her away from us.”
Focused and driven, Contreras has been involved in numerous activities. She serves as photo editor for the student-run newspaper, the BonaVenture, maintains a blog, has hosted a weekly show for the campus radio station, The Buzz, and has written for HerCampus.com.
But what she is most proud of is her work with the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), which she joined her freshman year. She is currently running for vice president and previously served as a senator representative with the Student Government Association and as secretary.
“It’s good to get back to your culture and your roots,” she said, noting that the organization was especially helpful to her during her first year at Bona’s. “This is a mainly white institution and sometimes it could feel overwhelming.”
Her mother is Dominican, her father Salvadoran, Contreras said, and she grew up in a neighborhood that is predominantly Hispanic. Being a member of LASO made the transition to life on campus easier and has since allowed her to bring awareness to others about the Latino community.
A lover of the written word, and especially of reporting, her goal is to one day work for ESPN, either as a producer or a reporter. Whatever the future holds, Contreras is determined to keep evolving.
Her motto is simple and to the point: “Don’t be afraid of change and keep on making connections.”
Top-right photo credit: Sydney Best, Class of 2021
Story by: Susan Anderson