Outstanding Senior Adriana Whitaker ’20: “Be the Voice for Others”

“Not everyone is in a position to speak up for themselves,” says Adriana Whitaker ’20. “When you are given the opportunity or have the means to be the voice for others, it’s important to do so.”

A political science major and pre-law minor, Whitaker not only talked the talk but walked the walk at Plymouth State. Her zeal was recognized by peers, who elected her class president for four straight years, and her accomplishments were acknowledged by the Top 20 Outstanding Senior Committee. Honorees are selected based on their campus and community involvement, academic achievement, and display of character associated to PSU’s mission.

“Outstanding seniors use their experiences on campus to provide for the whole community,” says Director of Student Life Tevis Bryant. “They are successful academically, but their impact reaches far beyond the classroom. Our recipients engage with and give back to the town of Plymouth and beyond.” 

Whitaker embodied these qualities as a prominent voice on campus through various leadership roles. She advocated for the class, organized fundraisers, budgeted, and planned.

Spring senior events, including a class trip to a Red Sox game, were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whitaker’s role as class president shifted to communicating seniors’ needs during unparalleled times as they transitioned to remote learning. She served as a liaison who ensured that students’ concerns and wishes were heard.

“I was able to work directly with administration and faculty in my student leadership roles,” says Whitaker. “As a result, we were able to see change happen right before our eyes.”

Whitaker was also a constant driver of change during her four years in the student senate. Student government focuses on all manner of student needs, from addressing a light out on campus to implementing active shooter drills, and it writes, edits, and votes on resolutions before making official requests. As parliamentarian, Whitaker helped the student government maintain order, and as head of finance, she allocated University System of New Hampshire funding to PSU clubs and organizations. In addition, she briefly served as interim treasurer.

Her campus leadership also encompassed serving as vice president of the Anthropology/Sociology Club and as a member of the Model United Nations Club, and she catalogued and preserved anthropology artifacts as a work-study employee. Off campus, she interned at law firms focused on real estate and fair housing issues.

“All of these opportunities taught me how to advocate for myself and for others,” Whitaker says. “There’s an art to it. It’s not just arguing what you think, it’s learning how to speak without talking down to others. It’s learning how to explain why change is needed. It takes practice, but you ultimately learn how to have a voice.”

When life threw a curveball this year, her voice was put into practice. In the fall, Whitaker was traveling over three hours between Plymouth and her home in Maine to care for and support a terminally ill family member. She wanted to be able to come home more frequently and decided to split her remaining 15 credits between Winterim, the shortened winter break session, and the spring semester. When she received her bill, she was surprised to discover that it was significantly more than it would have been to take all credits during the spring semester.

“I couldn’t afford it, and I couldn’t afford not to be home,” says Whitaker. “I spoke in front of the President’s Cabinet one morning, asking it to consider my circumstances. They worked it out so I could pay what I would have before needing to rearrange my course load. I’m thankful to Plymouth for supporting me so I could support my family.”

She excelled in those remaining courses, making the Dean’s List while caring for a loved one and continuing her campus involvements.

“Even with commuting back and forth, Adriana still attended every Sunday night senate meeting,” says Bryant. “She gave 110 percent to her family and to our Plymouth community. That’s Adriana. Despite what’s going on around her, she shows up.”

“It means a lot to me to receive this honor,” adds Whitaker about the Top 20 recognition. “I think it’s a testament to my time at Plymouth. I appreciate being recognized for the work that I did here, and I’m happy to see so many other students I know being recognized for their achievements as well.”

Whitaker plans to move to Virginia to work as a legal assistant before attending law school next year. With eventual plans to defend human rights, she knows she’ll make use of the advocacy skills she developed at Plymouth State.