Photot by Desiree Dunn ’21

Sabina Sabal ’22 is aiming for a job with the World Health Organization, and she’s studying neuroscience and mental health in order to get there.

“I always had an interest in the nervous system, but when I turned about 13, I started to look more into mental health issues.”

Sabal is a first-generation American whose parents migrated from the Garifuna area of Belize. The Garifuna are descendants from West Africans who shipwrecked in the Caribbean in the 17th century and were subsequently exiled to Honduras before settling in Belize.

“We are a small group of people,” Sabal said, “and we have a really cool history.”

From Cary, N.C., Sabal was referred to Berea by a teacher who believed she should look beyond the local community college and seek a four-year degree. Though she was skeptical at first that a no-tuition college existed without a catch, she decided to apply.

“I looked up Berea College,” she recalls, and thought, “‘that is not true. There is definitely something attached to it.’ I kept researching for about a week and found out how it actually worked, so I said okay and took all my tests.”

It worked out for Sabal, and though she describes her first year as difficult, she has settled comfortably into her sophomore year, and is reaching out to first-year students who may struggle like she did.

“I know more what to expect, and I see freshmen going through the things I went through. I want people to be able to be happy and figure out their life here. My experience gives insight about what advice to give.”

I want people to be able to be happy and figure out their life here. My experience gives insight about what advice to give.

Sabina Sabal ’22

Seeing herself in other people is important to Sabal, and the focus on diversity at Berea has helped her in that respect.

“I love the diversity at Berea College,” she said. “I love meeting people like me because I didn’t have that back home.”

The College’s community helps Sabal feel that she belongs. “Everyone here is trying to help you,” she said. “They genuinely care. You’re never really alone. Even if you’re sitting alone in the dining hall, people ask if you’re okay, if you want them to sit with you. It’s nice to have a sense of community.”

That sense of community is why Sabal, who participates in the Student Philanthropy Council and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, decided to begin her philanthropic life by supporting Berea College as a Berea Patron. In the process, she returns a portion of her Labor earnings back to the College. Even as a student, she is paying it forward.

“The is college really does feel like a dream,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that we can come here with no tuition. Without Berea, low-income students wouldn’t be given a chance.”

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