Brother and sister smiling together at graduation event

Cathy Bonilla '14, left, and Chico Bonilla '19 are co-chairs of Roanoke College's new Multicultural Alumni Chapter.

12.18.2020
By Roanoke College News

Multicultural Alumni Chapter becomes first of its kind at Roanoke

Roanoke College’s newest alumni chapter is all about family, so it’s fitting that it took a team effort to make the chapter a reality.

The Multicultural Alumni Chapter is the first alumni chapter at Roanoke College that is not geographically based. According to its mission statement, the chapter’s purpose is “to develop and maintain a mutually advantageous relationship between Roanoke College, alumni, and current students. Comprised mainly of alumni of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, and those in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, the Chapter provides crucial support to the College’s initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion.” The chapter is open to all alumni.

Siblings Cathy Bonilla ‘14 and Chico Bonilla ’19 are co-chairs of the new chapter. As alumni, Cathy and Chico said it’s easy to lose touch with friends as people move away and start building their careers and families. This alumni chapter, they hope, will make it easier for everyone to stay in touch, whether they were involved with the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) on campus or not.

“Even though we do have our own separate friend groups, in the end, we’re all family,” Chico said, “so it will be nice to have an organization to keep in touch with each other and try to help the next generation of OMA students.”

Numerous alumni have assisted in organizing the chapter. Director of Multicultural Affairs Natasha Saunders said these alumni deserve a great deal of credit.

"I am very excited to see the work our amazing alumni have put into creating this chapter,” Saunders said. “I am also moved by how receptive our institution is in supporting the establishment of this chapter. It is a sincere indication of how Roanoke College wants to move the needle forward as it pertains to diversity, inclusion, equity and community. I am excited to see how OMA will connect the current student body with the amazing members of our new Multicultural Alumni Chapter."

““Even though we do have our own separate friend groups, in the end, we’re all family, so it will be nice to have an organization to keep in touch with each other and try to help the next generation of OMA students.””

Chico Bonilla '19, co-chair of Multicultural Alumni Chapter

LGBTQ+ Coordinator Wes Brusseau also said the creation of the chapter fits into the College’s efforts to foster a more diverse and inclusive environment.

“It is a very exciting time for Roanoke College,” Brusseau said. “The establishment of the Multicultural Alumni Chapter is a pivotal declaration of the institutional value multiculturalism bestows upon the College. The establishment of this chapter is another example of how our purpose is living through action.”

Director of Alumni & Donor Relations Sally Walker said the creation of the chapter is a new and historic undertaking, as this chapter can engage people regardless of geographical location.

“It’s very unique,” Walker said. “It’s new territory. We’re incredibly excited about it. It’s very timely and important.”

Cathy and Chico’s older sisters Aisha (Bonilla) Leftwich ’01 and Vielka (Bonilla) Reina ‘02 were involved with founding the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) in 2000 and with founding Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement (HOLA).

Cathy said the College has taken great strides in terms of becoming more diverse over the past two decades. The Multicultural Alumni Chapter, she said, will partner with the College in future endeavors to build on that progress and support efforts to become an inclusive community. 

She also said the chapter should boost alumni engagement as well.

“Yes, it helps us as alumni to stay connected, but also it helps the school with its outreach to the current students from alumni as well as alumni participation, which is something a lot of people sometimes don’t feel too comfortable doing,” Cathy said. “They feel sort of separate from the school once they graduate, so this is a way for alumni to engage.” 

The chapter will begin having virtual events in the near future. All are welcome. There's a new Facebook group for the chapter called Roanoke College Multicultural Alumni Chapter. For more information on how to get involved, email Cathy at catherine.t.bonilla@gmail.com, Chico at chico.bonilla03@gmail.com or Walker at swalker@roanoke.edu. Due to a network-wide outage on campus, Walker will be unable to receive emails for the near future.