CAMERON ALFORD | CO-ASST. CULTURE EDITOR
Sacrifice shapes Cristina McNeiley and her story.
McNeiley, a sophomore criminology and sociology major from Munster, Indiana, knew she would make her mark at Butler University.
When she first visited campus, she loved it, but she also noticed a lack of diversity.
“When you come here, you are going to change it,” she told herself. “You are going to make a difference.”
She made her initial impact as a Butler student ambassador.
Due to McNeiley’s upbringing, she felt she was not supposed to be in a position of leadership, let alone a student at Butler.
McNeiley is the child of two teenage Latino parents who did not attend college.
Her father served three years in prison for armed robbery, and her mother gave up a full-tuition scholarship to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to take better care of her daughter.
McNeiley said she knew from a young age the world would be against her and her family.
“I remember my mom and I were hiding from the landlord because we didn’t have the money for rent,” she said.
From her birth through middle school, McNeiley experienced a wealth of trials and tribulations that became her source of motivation to triumph.
She credits her diverse family for giving her all of the support and experiences she needed to overcome the pain from her struggles.
“I grew this love for diversity and this love for everybody because of my family,” she said. “I grew up realizing that everybody is different.”
McNeiley said even her extended family is diverse. She has family members who are Mexican, Puerto Rican and African-American.
This family encouraged McNeiley to embrace her struggle-ridden background.
“This is essentially a part of me – they are going to remember me,” she said.
Now, she is looking forward to growing confidence as the future vice president of Respecting, Embracing, Achieving, Community and Harmony.
Bobbie Gibson, associate director of international programs, said McNeiley is very dependable.
“She is able to prioritize,” she said. “If she sees something that needs to be done, it gets done.”
McNeiley wants people to realize that R.E.A.C.H. is not solely a diversity programming board.
“I think that R.E.A.C.H. has the potential to be something much more,” McNeiley said.
She wants students to realize that they have to be a part of the change they want to see on Butler’s campus.
Sophomore Olivia Dean appreciates her passion and dedication to unmasking the stories of Butler students.
McNeiley wants to provide the opportunity for students to share their stories and acknowledge their struggles.
“It is almost like meeting yourself again – she just makes you feel more at home,” sophomore Aaron Smith said.
Smith said McNeiley’s story adds to her genuine nature.
“I love the story because it is what makes a person,” McNeiley said.
The sophomore feels that embracing her previous struggles has given her the confidence to be an effective leader in this position.
“Without my struggle, I would not have found my strength,” she said.