Making Magic Happen
A Q&A with Marilyn Romero ’12
December 19, 2011
Marilyn Romero ’12 has made the most of her time at Dickinson. She broadened her horizons in not just one but three study-abroad programs—traveling to Spain, Mexico and Italy. As a Bonner Leader, she helped repair hurricane-damaged homes on two service trips to New Orleans. She helped start the CONNECT Summer Program for Carlisle middle-school students, serving as the program coordinator for the past three summers. And she helped teach writing skills to the children of local migrant workers—all while working toward a double major in Spanish and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies.
Yet none of it would have happened without the scholarship that enabled this Wheaton, Md., native to come to Dickinson. As she puts it, “I’m an example of how your donation changes lives.” This fall, Romero sat down with one of her mentors, Joyce Bylander, special assistant to the president for institutional and diversity initiatives, to talk about her experience at Dickinson and how her scholarship has changed her life and “made magic happen.”
Joyce Bylander: Was affording college something you thought about a lot during your college search?
Marilyn Romero: Yes, definitely. I spent a lot of time at the career center in my high school. I was there every day. I used to get kicked out on Friday evenings. They would say, “Why can’t you be a normal kid? It’s Friday. This is your free time.” I told them, “I know, but I have to get into college. So this is what I want to do. I have to spend my free time looking for colleges, looking for
ways to pay for college.” Coming from a low-income, single-parent family, I knew it would be very hard, but I knew I had to find a way.
JB: How did you first decide you wanted to come to Dickinson?
MR: The only college I really knew anything about was the University of Maryland, and I’d gone to visit a biology class at UMBC. It was a class of 300 people, and when you wanted to ask a question, you had to hold up a folder with your ID number on it. So they would call on you by number—not even your name. I remember talking to my honors English teacher, Mrs. [Bridget] Roberts [the wife of Chris Roberts ’02], and telling her, “I don’t think I can go to a school like that.” But at that time, I didn’t even really know what a private, liberal-arts college was.
JB: I remember Bridget telling me she had some students for whom she thought Dickinson would be perfect—because even though she didn’t go here, she knew Dickinson through Chris, and she’d become an honorary Dickinsonian.
MR: So she planned a trip for us to come to visit Dickinson. We took the tour and it was all very nice, but what really got me interested was when the tour guide talked about all the study-abroad programs. Then we walked into the HUB, and I saw all of the pictures of the places where you could go.
JB: And you wanted to go to all of them …
MR: Back then I couldn’t even imagine that was possible. I just looked at the pictures and thought, “Wow, maybe I’ll have the chance to go somewhere like that.” That had always been a dream of mine. Even when I was little I used to tell my mom, “I’m going to travel the world one day.” Then we talked about Dickinson’s global engagement, and we saw the library and some of the academic buildings, and I just fell in love with the college. But at the end of the day, we were looking through the red folder from admissions with brochures and pamphlets. I heard some boys behind me say, “$52,000 a year, what?” I pulled out the brochure, looked at it and said, “Oh, well, I guess I’ll have to say goodbye to this school, because I cannot afford to go here.” I was really sad because I loved it, but I just thought that was it—I’d never be able to afford it. So Dickinson was my dream school, but I couldn’t really even see it as a dream.
JB: It was your dream, but you were afraid to dream it.
MR: I thought I had no right to dream it because it wouldn’t come true. Whenever I would look at another school, I would compare it to Dickinson and there would be something missing. I had applied to 11 schools. I’d been accepted to eight and wait-listed at two. Dickinson was the last response I was waiting for when I left for El Salvador with my family for spring break. When we got back, I got the mail and rushed to my room. I saw a big red package and opened it. It said, “We would like to congratulate you. You’ve been accepted …” But the part that made me cry was the financial-aid letter. At first I was confused. I was hugging my mom and reading it, and it listed scholarships, grants, work study, and it all balanced out. I just cried. I showed my mom, and I said, “I think I just got into my number-one school, and I think I just got a full ride.” Then I took it to school to show Mrs. Roberts, and we were both jumping up and down and crying. It was amazing. Dickinson was telling me they wanted me to come here. I’ll never forget that day.
Marilyn Romero in Barcelona’s Park Guell.