December 28, 2012
A computer game in a kindergarten classroom, a babysitting job, a Japanese student exchange program and a strong desire to help people brought Dianne Montiel '16 roughly 1.6 miles from her home to Earlham College.
She has found opportunities to weave together her diverse interests in a transformative educational experience that marks Earlham as one of an elite group of schools included in the landmark book, Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools that will Change How You Think About College.
A first-year pre-med student and a Bonner Scholar, Montiel says service is the backbone of a community.
“I feel like if I help people, then people will be there when I need help — kind of like creating a chain,” she says. “Most local community organizations are run with volunteers, and here a lot of those volunteers are Bonner Scholars.”
The Bonner Scholar program is a four-year developmental leadership program for students with demonstrated financial need and a passion for service. Scholarships are awarded for community service.
A Committed Volunteer
Montiel admits that without her volunteer work, a void would exist in her life.
“I have been volunteering for so long — if not daily, then nearly everyday,” she says. “It makes me feel better to help people because no matter your situation there’s always someone worse off than you.”
She says her parents were a good example of giving back to the community.
“My parents are respected in the Hispanic community in Richmond,” she says. “They translate for the police department, and they are always helping. Even when we go Christmas shopping, it’s not for us. We shop for a single mother with twins, and I enjoy picking out stuff for them. At Thanksgiving we make a meal for a family in need.”
During high school, Montiel volunteered at Reid Hospital for four years and was a member of the community service clubs Torch and Keystone at the Boys and Girls Club, where she has been a member since she was 10 years old and where she continues volunteering as her Bonner service site.
“Basically the Boys and Girls Club is where I grew up,” she says. “Even before I came to Richmond it was where I spent time after school.”
Her parents own and operate Richmond’s La Chiquita Mexican Market, and as she was growing up Montiel could help out at the store or take part in the activities at the Club.
“For so long, I use to be a member of the Boys and Girls Club,” she says. “Now I am working with kids there, and I want them to have a good experience like I did.”
A character from a computer game her kindergarten class used was named Dr. Diane. Other kids began calling Montiel “Dr. Diane,” which prompted her first notions of becoming a doctor. In addition, she regularly babysat for a child with a cleft palette and saw the transformation that occurred after surgery. During this time, she also became aware of Doctors Without Borders, a volunteer organization she hopes to work with after becoming a pediatrician.
Also while in high school, Montiel was a member of her school’s Japanese Club. She spent a semester in Japan as part of the American Field Service program and is considering a double major in biology and Japanese at Earlham.
“I already knew Earlham students when I was in high school, and a few of my teachers were Earlham graduates,” she says. “I really liked Earlham because I wanted to do science, but I also am interested in Japanese and I could do both here.”