Larissa Check

Class of 2012
Major/Minor: Biology and Chemistry

Larissa Check ’12 didn’t visit Washington College until she moved in at the beginning of her freshman year—and it wasn’t love at first sight.

“It was a culture shock!” she said, laughing.

Larissa, from Greenbelt, near the University of Maryland at College Park, was expecting a larger university setting. She applied to Washington College at the recommendation of her high school advisor and enrolled because it offered the most appealing programs, student-teacher ratio and financial aid benefits.

Born in West Africa, Larissa moved to the United States at the age of 10 and is the first of her siblings to go to college.

“We didn’t know about the process of going to open houses and visiting schools,” she said about her decision to attend WC. After she arrived on campus, she said, “Chestertown was so foreign to me and I wanted to transfer.”

Larissa’s advisors urged her to stay for at least one semester, and two years later, she’s busy juggling on-campus activities with a demanding course load.

“It really grew on me. Darnell Parker and the Office of Multicultural Affairs are great at helping students who might feel as though they don’t fit in to explore the school and everything it offers,” she said.

Larissa is grateful there were members of the faculty and staff who cared enough to convince her to stay.

“It’s a small community where you can have meaningful interactions with your professors. If you want strong academics, I don’t see why you’d go anywhere else,” she said.

A double-major in biology and chemistry, Larissa received support and guidance from her faculty advisors, especially Kate Verville and Aaron Amick, who helped her create a schedule to encompass all her academic interests and who motivated her in the classroom.

Verville directed Larissa to a scholarship opportunity for minority premed students and pushed her to apply for a summer premedical program at Howard University College of Medicine.

The six-week program included lab work, visits to museums and conferences, and weekly rotations at the University Hospital. Larissa, who is interested in dermatology, met with current medical students and the Dean of Howard’s College of Medicine to get tips on how to study, take practice exams, and prepare for medical school.

“It gives you exposure to people and opportunities in the field and helps you decide if it’s really what you want to do,” said Larissa, who feels more prepared and motivated after completing the program.

Larissa is intent on helping other Washington College students have positive campus experiences. As a peer mentor for the Office of Multicultural Affairs and as a Resident Assistant, Larissa is a resource for students struggling to adjust to campus as she once did.

“My advisors and mentors worked hard to figure out a way for me to stay at Washington College and really enjoy it. It’s not just about getting a scholarship—it’s about deserving it. I really want to give back,” she said.

Larissa worked with the Service Council on a “Spare a Dollar, Save a Life” campaign and also helped to raise money to help survivors of the earthquake in Haiti and, as Diversity Secretary of the SGA, she acted as a liaison between different student organizations on campus and planned events to celebrate Diversity Week.

“People are diverse because of their ideas and interests and cultural backgrounds. I grew up in West Africa, so when someone talks about diversity, I don’t think along racial lines. I want to expand the idea of diversity on campus beyond the superficial,” Larissa said.

Though she keeps a full schedule studying, tutoring and staying involved in student organizations, Larissa is happy to keep busy.

“I make sure to have time for my own life,” she said, “but when you have a passion for something and you like what you do, it becomes your life and doesn’t even feel like work.”

Campus Involvement