By Ann Y. Robinson
Javelis Marín Castro’s decision to attend Iowa State University was the result of a positive interaction with a recruiter at a college fair in her home country of Puerto Rico.
“Iowa State was the only school that had a recruiter there who spoke Spanish. My Mom doesn’t speak English, so that put Iowa on the map for us,” Marín Castro said.
A major in animal ecology and pre-vet in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, with a minor in animal science, Marín Castro will present comments on behalf of her graduating class at this year’s spring convocation for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on May 13. She will also be recognized with the spring 2022 Distinguished Service Award from the CALS Student Council for her leadership promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
Marín Castro said being a part of many organizations and holding various leadership positions has helped her connect with others and establish a sense of belonging as a first-generation college student so far from home.
She has been especially active in Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), serving two years as the chapter’s president. “Honestly, MANRRS has become my family here at Iowa State,” Marín Castro said. “It was the place where I felt most like I could just be myself.”
She also participated in the Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE), and its national counterpart, NSCORE. In addition, she served as a member of the CALS group, Leaders Enhancing Agriculture, Diversity, Inclusion and Trust, known as LEAD IT, when it was an active organization, and as a community advisor for Iowa State’s Department of Residence.
Marín Castro leaves college with a resume full of scholarships and awards. They include the 2019 Farm Credit Services Scholarship, the YWCA Women of Achievement Award and George Washington Carver Spirit of Innovation and Service Award in 2020. This year, she received the Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award, which recognizes students who display notable character, high academic achievement and active involvement in on- and off-campus activities.
Through it all, her mother has been her biggest source of support. “Everything is a ‘Yes!’ with her,” Marín Castro said. “She likes to say I came here with a suitcase full of dreams, my head in the clouds and my feet on the ground. She always encourages me to keep going and trust in the Lord that things will work out.”
Marín Castro has found many supporters on campus who have helped make Iowa her second home. Among them are CALS Assistant Dean for Diversity Theressa Cooper, Joyce Hagley, with Iowa State’s TRIO Program for income-eligible and first-generation Americans, and Mike Gaul, director of CALS Career Services.
“I’m truly amazed at what Javelis has accomplished here,” Gaul said. “She is one of the most selfless individuals I have ever met and has provided extreme value to every organization she has devoted her time to, always with a kind smile on her face. I am excited to see where this next journey in life takes her.”
As she graduates, Marín Castro looks forward to a career working to benefit wildlife. “Ideally, I would like to be in Australia or in Africa doing rescue, rehabilitation and release work,” she said.
This semester, she is studying studying agriculture and marine science, and taking a class conducting research on humpback whales at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo through the National Student Exchange Program.
She’ll enter the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, Urbana, this fall, but first, she’ll spend the summer interning for the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in North Carolina.
Wherever she goes, she will undoubtedly find home and many ways to serve her diverse communities.