ARC hosts events to recognize adopted students

Lauren Roth – Staff Writer

This week, the Adoptee, Recognition, Community (ARC) hosted its first series of events. The origins of this organization started in January of 2021 by Senior Co-Presidents Tia Lerud and Ani Bailey. “We both felt that Gustavus could benefit from a space for adoptees to connect with each other, as well as create connections with non-adoptees on the foundation of identity,” Lerud and Bailey said. Members of ARC are proud to have created a safe space for students to make connections with others who share similar identities and also with those who don’t.
Along with creating a space for adoptees, ARC also strives to bridge the gap between adoptees and non-adoptees. ARC aims “to mediate the stigma surrounding adoption and the adoptee experience through interaction and open conversation,” Junior treasurer McCall Walker said. The adoption experience is something very few people experience firsthand. According to members, many non-adoptees will never be able to understand the trauma and loss associated with being an adoptee. “We believe that it is crucial to educate non-adoptees on our experiences so they can better understand it, as well as gauge ways to support the adoptees in their lives,” Lerud said.
Some members shared their experiences as adoptees. Co-President Tia Lerud has known she was adopted since she could remember. She was adopted at 18 months from Cambodia. Lerud grew up in a white, upper-middle class household and feels she has been extremely fortunate with her adoptive family.
However, she believes this does not diminish the trauma and loss she endured through the adoption process. “Adoption is such a multi-faceted experience that one word cannot describe it,” Lerud said. While her adoption trauma has manifested itself in many forms throughout her life, she feels fortunate to have surrounded herself with people who make her feel safe and supported.
Other ARC members who shared their stories were Sophomore DLC representative Kate Dario and Junior McCall Walker. “Hi! I’m Kate and I’m adopted,” Dario said, “my opening line to many conversations, sometimes they can get awkward.” Dario was born in India and adopted at 3 years old. She grew up in St. Paul, MN where her single mother gave her many opportunities to embrace her Indian heritage.
While Dario is grateful that her mother wanted her to understand where she came from, there is so much that she had to contend with on her own. “Adoption is such a traumatic experience that not many people understand,” Dario said. She is so thankful to have ARC on campus where she can find people who understand being adoptees, but also those who wish to learn.
Walker was adopted from China at 11 months old. Like Lerud, she believes she grew up in a loving, comfortable environment of privilege. “But adoption continues to be a facet of my identity that has far more layers than I ever imagined as a child,” Walker said. She began what she describes as “coming out of the fog” when she first started attending Gustavus where she was able to interact with other adoptees. ARC is an organization that she is proud of contributing to. “Everybody has a place at ARC, and it is a place of healing for many,” Walker said.
A.R.C. hosted Adoption Week from April 4th-8th. These events are created “to bring together students on Gustavus’ campus to learn not only about the adoption identity, but also to create a safe space for all identities to be welcomed and safe” members of ARC said.
The goal is to bring awareness to the adoptee experience and to ARC and their mission. ARC has partnered with the Peer Assistant’s and the Lutheran Social Services of MN to gather donations for families or individuals in need in the Mankato area. ARC is also hosting a raffle. Entries have the chance of winning a Nintendo Switch, $120 Target Gift Card, or a Self Care Basket.
Each day had a new activity planned. On Monday, ARC held their regular weekly meeting where members created flipbooks to reflect on the people and spaces where they feel a sense of belonging. Tuesday’s event was painting in the Courtyard Cafe. “It was refreshing to see the amount of students who attended our event and wanted to be more involved in ARC!” Lerud said.
Wednesday’s event was game night and Thursday’s event was a movie screening. Friday’s event ends the week with an educational panel on adoption. This will feature many of the members of ARC who will share their experiences as adoptees. The members hope to facilitate a productive and educational conversation around the adoption identity. “We hope that students at Gustavus are able to walk away from this week with a new perspective and want to be more involved with ARC!” members of ARC said.

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