6 Students Who Made Their Mark Their First Year
By: Madeline Paakkonen ’21
As we anticipate welcoming the Class of 2023, let’s celebrate the impact of our newest Carthaginians. Last fall, Carthage welcomed its largest-ever incoming class. How did these record-breakers fare? Meet six students who are definitely ready for year two.
Allie Ontaneda ’22
Allie Ontaneda came to Carthage with a strong passion for language and education. In only her first year, she excelled in both of her majors, became involved throughout campus, and gained invaluable experience abroad.
“The biggest surprise was changing my major from secondary education to elementary education,” Allie says. “I used to want to teach high school Spanish, and I never thought I would switch to elementary.” Her first education courses at Carthage helped her realize elementary education was the right path after all.
“Don’t be afraid to make some changes if it will make you happier in the future,” she says.
During her first J-Term, Allie took advantage of Carthage’s many study abroad opportunities and spent the month in Spain. The Intensive Language Study tour taught by Prof. Matt Borden focused on improving students’ language proficiency.
“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “My passion for the Spanish language and culture grew, in addition to being able to see the world and use my Spanish to communicate and form new relationships.”
On campus, Allie became a DEIL Fellow with the Office of Equity and Inclusion and a Writing Fellow with the Brainard Writing Center. She was selected for both of these positions because of her academic excellence, unique perspective, and desire to help others.
“Meeting new people and making new friends have created some of my favorite moments at Carthage,” she says. “You may not be friends with some of the same people throughout the year, and you may not have a ‘set group’ of friends, and that’s OK. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to meet new people. Some of my greatest friends are people whom I didn’t expect to be friends with, and they came later on in the year.”
This summer, Allie plans to teach a summer school Spanish class for students in fifth through eighth grades as part of an internship. She is excited to continue her studies at Carthage during her sophomore year and looks forward to the opportunities that await.
- Brainard Writing Center Writing Fellow
- Honors Program
- Office of Equity and Inclusion DEIL Fellow
- Off-campus tutor
Advice for incoming freshmen: “Stay true to yourself. It’s easy to listen to people who are influencing you to be someone you may not be. Trust your gut and stay true to your values.”
Oscar Burns ’22
In his first year at Carthage, Oscar Burns has served as a role model to other students with his strong work ethic, wisdom, and ability to balance playing basketball, academic responsibilities, and a social life. A communication and marketing double major, Oscar has excelled in the classroom and on the court, catching the eye of Carthage staff and faculty members.
A Las Vegas native, Oscar came to Carthage with very little knowledge of the surrounding Kenosha area or the Midwest. Instead of worrying about the change in location and culture, he saw it as an opportunity for personal growth.
“Coming from Las Vegas, I forced myself to be uncomfortable in a new environment and scenery,” he says. “I took the challenge head-on, knowing that the purpose of me coming to Carthage was to continue my passion for basketball, and even more so, to develop myself as an individual. The courses and professors made it easy to make that transition.”
He credits self-discipline as the greatest factor in his success.
“It’s all about being open-minded and having the grit to push yourself from within,” Oscar says. “That’s the biggest key that helped me survive and thrive throughout the year, self-discipline. There are times when I’d rather hang out with friends and have a social life, or procrastinate and hold things off, but I had it embedded within me that I have a bigger purpose — not only for me, but for my family back home and my family to come.”
Reflecting on his first year, Oscar realized what the Carthage community and environment have meant to him. Through the encouragement and support of his family, peers, coaches, and professors, Oscar says, he has gained a greater appreciation and pride for himself and his work.
“I was able to maintain a 4.0, got some playing time as a freshman for basketball, and met great people. In the process of everything, I didn’t see my successful experiences as myself doing well, I just saw them as standards that I needed to meet. Seeing my family happy, my friends around me happy, and the people whom I don’t know acknowledging me, started to open my eyes. I rarely give myself credit when I do well. But taking time to reflect and see my growth, I am proud of myself. However, I still remain humble because I know that the journey has just begun.”
Oscar plans to spend time with family and friends back in Las Vegas this summer while preparing for his sophomore year.
Advice for incoming freshmen: “My advice to upcoming freshmen would be to simply be yourself. Grow and mature into yourself, and don’t be afraid to embrace challenges and experiences, because that is what you’re here for. Do things the right way and the right things will come to you.”
Shane Hendrickson ’22
Freshman Shane Hendrickson jumped straight into life at Carthage. He got involved in on-campus clubs and organizations, participated in a J-Term study tour, explored Kenosha, and excelled academically.
“I chose Carthage because they do a really good job at teaching you how to think instead of what to think,” he says. “Oh, and there is a beautiful lake view from every building.”
For his first J-Term, Shane traveled to Guatemala on a Spanish Language Immersion study tour led by Prof. Ed Montanaro and Target Language Expert José Raúl González Ruíz. He improved his language skills and learned about the country’s culture through direct communication with locals. He called it “a life-changing experience meeting the most amazing people.”
“Next year I will be going to Tanzania for J-Term.”
Outside of class, Shane has immersed himself in the Carthage community and formed strong relationships with other students. He is involved in Neuroscience Club, the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, an intramural basketball team, and Campus Cursive, an organization focused on spreading kindness on campus. His participation and connections in these organizations have enriched Shane’s Carthage experience.
“The biggest surprise was how fast Carthage felt like home for me,” Shane says. “The people I met here are so accepting and fun. Everyone is nice. My favorite memory has been playing sand volleyball behind the Tower with the lake view.
“One night we were playing and the sky had the most beautiful sunset. It’s definitely something I won’t forget.”
In the future, the neuroscience and Spanish double major hopes to become a psychiatrist in South America. This summer, he will work at a Spanish immersion Montessori school. And after making such a strong connection with the Carthage community his first year, Shane looks forward to returning in the fall.
Advice for incoming freshmen: “Join organizations that interest you right away. I have met some of my best friends from these groups. Also, develop good relationships with your professors. They are the coolest people.”
Purity Bundi ’22
An international student from Nyamira, Kenya, Purity Bundi has excelled at Carthage while on her path to becoming an engineer.
She came to Carthage for the small class sizes and close professor-student relationships. She was able to experience both from the start of classes, and enjoyed gaining new perspective through courses like Western Heritage.
“It was not until I took the Western Heritage class with Prof. John Isham that I realized how significant objects are in movies and films,” she says. “I have always watched movies, films, and documentaries, but never did I pay attention to the scenery and settings. This was fascinating for me since it has given me a new perspective on how to view things, something I will forever hold onto.”
In addition to excelling academically, Purity is extremely involved on campus and volunteers in the greater Kenosha area. She is a member of The Future of Africa organization, Alpha Lambda Delta, and the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. She also serves as the Student Government representative and graphic designer for the United Women of Color. In addition, she works as a peer coach, a library assistant in the Hedberg Library, and a community builder for the Center of Faith and Spirituality. In Kenosha, she volunteers at the Immanuel Church.
She learned about many of these opportunities through the Freshmen Involvement Fair, an event she says was essential to her first year and her favorite moment so far. “I got to meet most of the people who are now my best friends and classmates.”
Purity came to Carthage on the Zawadi Africa Scholarship and has enjoyed sharing parts of her culture with students on campus.
“I volunteered at Family Fun Night in the Hedberg Library to present to the Carthage community about the diverse culture in my country,” she says. “It was great seeing the interest that they had in learning Swahili, a language spoken in Kenya.”
Thinking about her future at Carthage, Purity hopes to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in addition to continuing with her current activities and organizations.
- United Women of Color
- Peer Coach
- Future of Africa
- Alpha Lambda Delta
- Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship
Advice for incoming freshmen: “As a freshman, your family or peers will want to tell you how to spend your college life, but one thing is for sure: Just because it worked out for someone else does not mean it will work out for you. Listen as much as you can to what they have to say, but you need to be the one to decide what to do. Also, do not be too hard on yourself. Embrace every experience, and learn and grow through it. Do not forget to have fun. Fall in love with the messiness and the confusion of it all. Trust the process. With commitment and consistency, you will get there.”
Evan Blievernicht ’22
In his first year on campus, Evan Blievernicht has emerged as a community leader through his involvement in the Carthage Activities Board, Residence Life Council, and Carthage Student Government. An international political economy and finance major, he’s also excelled academically while encouraging students to stand up for their beliefs and gain confidence in themselves.
“You need to fight for what you believe,” he says. “And while you should consider what the opposition is saying, you can disagree with anyone, even your friends.”
As an integral part of the Residence Life Council his freshman year, Evan served on the Swenson Dormitory Executive Board. In this position, he was in charge of planning community building activities, suggesting environmental improvements, and managing residence life policies. He also took on the roles of senator and student organization liaison for Carthage Student Government, further building his leadership skills and proving his commitment to the community.
Evan admits he made a few mistakes while learning to balance all of his organizational responsibilities.
“The biggest mistake or regret I have is honestly probably just not checking my email,” he says.
He did find ways to manage stress — moments that often led to his favorite memories.
“Sneaking out late one night and painting the Kissing Rock with my boyfriend was one of my favorite moments at Carthage,” he says. “We didn’t know if there were rules about painting it so we took extreme caution: wearing all black, stopping when someone passed, and finishing as quickly as possible. We wrote ‘Happy Hoco Week’ to make it look like a random organization did it.”
This summer, Evan hopes to save money by working in his hometown.
“I plan to make some money for a good spring break next year,” he says. “I also am excited to spend time with my family.”
Advice for incoming freshmen: “Do not be afraid to ask someone with a car for a ride, but you should always at least offer to give them some form of payment!”
Karen Castaneda Valdovinos ’22
When Karen Castaneda Valdovinos arrived on campus last fall, she came with goals already set for herself. One of those goals was to work on her personal development with the help of Carthage’s liberal arts education.
“I chose Carthage because I knew I wanted a smaller school where I knew my voice and opinions would be heard,” she says. “Carthage was somewhere I could feel comfortable while being so far away from home. Knowing that a liberal arts education would allow me to be the best well-rounded person I could be sealed the deal.”
“The biggest surprise for me in my first year of college has been how well I’ve managed to handle my academics, my activities, and my social life,” she says. “It’s a good balance, but sometimes some things need to be sacrificed in order to reach my goals.”
“It has allowed me to meet so many new people and will offer me many leadership opportunities in the future,” she says.
In January, Karen traveled to Peru for the J-Term study tour “The Role of Tourism and its Effect on Women and the Environment in Peru.” As a recipient of the Carthage Women’s Club Scholarship, the trip had a profound effect on Karen. “It was an experience I will always remember and continue to share,” she says
Hoping to continue improving her Spanish skills, Karen plans to teach the language to children ages 1-5 this summer.
Advice for incoming freshmen: “Get involved! Getting involved in all the different clubs, organizations, and Greek life Carthage offers is a great way to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to seek discomfort and reach outside of your comfort zone. After all, that’s what college is all about!”