Multicultural group ROCs the valley

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Scholarships, friendships and performances keep these college dancers and musicians together

Utah County is one of the whitest areas in the country with less than 10 percent of residents listed as minorities in the latest census.

Much of the diversity that we do have can be attributed to current and former BYU and UVSC students, who come here for top academic programs, athletic opportunities and the religious environment.

However, minorities are twice as likely to drop out of college than their white counterparts, according to the National Education Association.

Enter Michael and Lluvia Campbell.

This colorful couple is passionate about bringing and retaining college students of color to Utah Valley.

Their strategy?

Enhance the students’ cultures by providing a way for them to learn and share their culture through song and dance.

The Multicultural Services of Utah, a non-profit corporation, was organized to help students from Native American, Polynesian, Asian, Latin and African American backgrounds to succeed in obtaining college degrees.

“We feel very strongly that these students need each other, and the community needs this group,” Lluvia says.

The retention and performing parts of the organization are known as ROC (Remembering Our Culture). The students perform regularly in elementary schools, and a major community performance is scheduled for March 25th at Timpanogos High School in Orem.

This win-win situation brings culture to our community as well as providing friendships and support to the 50 sharp students. They depend on each other for friendship, mentoring, food and fun.

For some members of MSU, the results have been more concrete.

“I discovered who I am through this group as I’ve learned about the cultures I’m a part of,” Nathan Hanamaikai says. “I also found my wife in the group,but that isn’t a continuing motivation, obviously.”

The Campbells also met while performing in a multicultural group at BYU. Lluvia was named BYU’s homecoming queen — the only minority to have held the honor.

Now the family’s passion is to bring cultures together and celebrate diversity and human needs.

“People need each other,” Michael says. “We need to relate and know other people. In college, students are leaving their families and moving on, but they need peers to feel part of something. We give students the motivation to stay and succeed.”

Joining the group requires no previous experience and no tryouts. The focus is on camaraderie and culture.

One of the only requirements to be in the group is to maintain a 2.0 GPA.

Students don’t want to be cut from the group that requires 8-10 hours a week of volunteer time learning the dances and performing roles within the group. The group begins their twice-weekly meetings with songs, themes, mottos, announcements and religious devotionals.

Students are asked to write a reflection paper each semester about their experiences. The writings are bound together in a souvenir journal that showcases their performances and travels.

The Campbell house in Provo is often full with students coming for a bite to eat or some advice.

“We tell them that they can be a force for good in this community and beyond when they graduate,” Lluvia says.

Michael and Lluvia also have other duties — Michael is a real estate agent and Lluvia is an interpreter for the LDS Church and major corporations.

But their heart is on the stage and in the hearts of multicultural young people who ROC their world.

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