When you chat with the warm-hearted, dynamic 22-year-old, you wouldn’t guess that Mariam Alata had much trouble making friends when she got to college. But finding her place at UM-Dearborn took a little time and the right approach. Even when things did start to click, she didn’t forget what it felt like to make the tricky jump to college. Building on her own experience, she started an organization specifically designed to help new students get off to a successful start. And she has big dreams to continue serving others as a justice-driven lawyer.
Mariam, in her own words
On helping others find their place on campus. “High school was a really interesting time for me. My first few years, I really struggled to make friends, and by the time I finally found my little group, it was graduation. When I came to college, I was very determined to make friends from the get-go. But college is a big pond, and my first semester, I found myself struggling in that same way. It’s an inherent problem with commuter schools because everyone is tempted to go to school and then just go home, and I needed to change that. So I realized when I was a sophomore I wanted to create a student organization that focused on freshman involvement. We created DUCC, which stands for Diverse Understanding Creating Community, and it’s a mentoring program that pairs upperclassmen with students who are new to campus so they can ask the million-and-one questions that new students have. One of my favorite “ducklings” — that’s what we call them — was a transfer student who had just come to the States. They used DUCC to basically navigate life. The other students in the group became family, and that was really great because they didn’t have family here, and they were able to create one on campus.”
How an Alternative Spring Break trip helped stoke her passion for justice. “I immigrated from Syria when I was 6 months old, and I come from a very political family. Growing up in America, I noticed really quickly there are a lot of inherent flaws in our system. I knew something felt wrong, but I didn’t know exactly what felt wrong until I got a little older and went on an Alternative Spring Break trip. We went to Cleveland, and it was there I learned what gentrification meant, and I learned about the realities of a country that doesn’t always prioritize the lower classes. That made me so angry. At the time, I had already been thinking about going into law, but that was what really made me decide this was what I needed to do. I got jobs in the legal field, including working for Mike Cox, who was the previous Michigan Attorney General. During that time, I worked on the Larry Nassar case, and I got to finally see justice. That made me realize that things aren’t all bad; there is a place where you can have justice. I’d love to work as a prosecutor, working with domestic violence and human trafficking cases. After that, I’d love to go into policy. There are so many flaws in how we handle taking care of people in our country. Somebody needs to do something to fix that and I feel like it has fallen on my lap to do something.”