By Megan Ondrizek

Alina Zerpa

By Megan Ondrizek
The first-generation college graduate and Miami native leaves her mark on commuter student life at the University of Miami.

Alina ZerpaWhen it comes to leaving a legacy at the University of Miami, Alina Zerpa only hopes that the traditions she helped celebrate and create continue to evolve. 

As a commuter student Zerpa immediately immersed herself in campus life at UM, joining various student organizations rooted in tradition and school spirit, including Homecoming Executive Committee and Category 5 – the spirit programming board. She found her true campus connection, though, in the Department of Orientation & Commuter Student Involvement, where she served as a commuter assistant for two years and then went on to further pave the way for commuter success as a program coordinator for Great Start, the pre-Orientation program for first-year commuter students – the very program that solidified her own decision to be a commuter ‘Cane.

“Alina fostered a feeling of family for the student staff and new students throughout the summer, and accomplished her goal to make Great Start more holistic, student-centered, and fulfilling for participating students,” said Matthew G. Barnes, assistant director of Orientation & Commuter Student Involvement. “Without a doubt, Alina walks away from these experiences having contributed greatly to commuter life through her leadership experiences.”

It was her spirit of leadership and service to her community that earned Zerpa the inaugural Magaly Santos Llaca Endowed Memorial Scholarship in 2016, a $10,000 award from the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development and the Division of Student Affairs.

Elsewhere on campus, Zerpa sharpened her writing and social media skills as an intern for University Communications since 2014, served as online managing editor for Distraction magazine, and reported for The Miami Hurricane and Distraction on a variety of topics. As one of only two UM students selected for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Advancement Summer Internship program in 2016, she completed a social media comparative analysis for the University and made recommendations for an improved social media presence across platforms.

Zerpa graduates this month with a double major in journalism and psychology as the first in her family to earn a college degree. After graduation, she will join Operation Groundswell’s East Africa animal conservation program, a six-week service trip where volunteers work with the Jane Goodall Institute and community leaders in animal and environmental conservation around Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.