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Alumna connects with next generation of Hispanic students

Angel Sarmiento ’23

Last updated September 15, 2023

By Jerry Salley ’90

Hispanic Heritage Month at Furman
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As a student, Angel Sarmiento ’23 was an admissions ambassador and member of Mosaic, a group of students dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive student body by sharing their Furman experiences with high schoolers.

As an alumna, reaching out to prospective students is now her full-time job. This fall, she and her fellow admissions counselors will spend several weeks traveling to different territories throughout the United States to visit high schoolers who are deciding on a college. For Sarmiento, that means a return to Florida, where she and her mother first lived after leaving Caracas, Venezuela.

“My mom brought me over as a baby,” Sarmiento said. “Venezuela was really crime-ridden and corrupt, so she wanted to get out of there, and her sister had already come over to Miami.”

The family moved north when Sarmiento’s stepfather found an engineering job in the Greenville, South Carolina, area. “Overall, it just seemed like a much better place,” said Sarmiento. “Lots more green space and public parks and community engagement, very different from the Miami city hustle-bustle. Everything just felt safer – I was allowed to go over to friends’ houses.”

‘Make your own community’

After middle school and high school in Greenville County, Sarmiento came to understand how challenging a college search can be for a student who lacks resources or doesn’t even know what help is available.

From left: Angel Sarmiento ’23 and fellow student orientation leaders Russell Richards ’24 and Delilah Evelyn ’23 in Fall 2021.

“That’s a big part of why I’m enjoying my position as an admissions counselor, just to be that point of reference to help families not only understand Furman but also understand what the college admissions process is like,” she said.

Furman was nearby and familiar – “It’s so close, it’s a great institution, it’s so beautiful; it was a no-brainer,” Sarmiento said – but there was still a bit of culture shock in store for the first-year student.

“I didn’t realize Furman was so predominantly white until I got to campus,” said Sarmiento, who was awarded a Rinker Study Away Scholarship in 2021. “Going through fall orientation, I didn’t necessarily click with anyone right away – which I know now is totally normal. But in the moment, I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m already failing at this whole college thing.’ But you just have to make your own community and be intentional about reaching out to people who you think might have similar experiences.”

She soon got busy with her double major in psychology and sociology, her work in the admissions office and the James B. Duke Library, and her duties as an orientation leader. In her senior year, she won the David Redburn Award in sociology and Furman’s Hall of Leaders Award for Excellence in Service and Leadership before graduating magna cum laude.

New opportunities, new experiences

As Furman begins its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sarmiento is happy to see her alma mater – and current employer – continuing to work toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion. Observances like this are an opportunity to “realize the value that comes from the different perspectives and different cultures that are at play here,” she said. “I would encourage people to try those new experiences, whether that be food, music or dance. There are so many beautiful things that I grew up with but that others might not know and get a lot of joy out of.”

Her admissions counselor job during this gap year after graduation won’t be permanent, but she plans to continue in the higher education field, perhaps pursuing a master’s in education.

“Being able to help those families and those students take advantage of their time in college has really spoken to me, and I want to pursue that,” she said. “One way I keep ties to my heritage is by reaching out to Hispanic students and saying, ‘I came out on the other side of this, and I’m here to tell you to take advantage of all these opportunities.’ It’s my way of giving back.”

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