Meet Chloe Vraney: Presente President and Zumba Instructor

For Chloe Vraney '14, a love of Latin American culture runs in the family: "My mom used to teach ESL students at a high school," she muses. "Even at a young age, I knew they were at a disadvantage in our society with English as their second language." As she grew up, she attended a friend's Quinceañera and took some Spanish classes, and, before she knew it, a passion was born.

Today, Chloe's passion has blossomed and has set the St. Olaf campus on fire. Her role as the President of Presente, the Latino culture club on campus, has already brought new experiences and interesting conversation to Oles of all races and heritage. Recently, Chloe, along with other members of Presente, has facilitated the events behind Latino Heritage Month, including ethnic dances, fútbol, chapel talks, and a Salsa/Reggaeton Pause dance (make sure to attend on October 8th!). With the help of some of the academic departments on campus, she was able to invite filmmaker Eric Byler to campus, and presented a screening of his documentary 9500 Liberty, a film about the underlying racism still present in America today. Chloe is still in contact with Byler about future collaborations here on campus. She has also been a advocate for the "Drop the I Word" Campaign and spent a long day in Buntrock educating students about the necessity of refraining from using the word "illegal" while referring to undocumented immigrants in the United States. While not everyone agrees with her views, Chloe is certainly stirring discussion on important issues – something that is vital to any good liberal arts education. 

Chloe credits much of her drive to this same liberal arts education that she has gotten here at St. Olaf. "I have a ton of people supporting me and helping through every bump along the way," she said. "I've definitely become more confident here, largely because what I have learned in classes has pushed me to take more of an interest in issues that need to be changed. This in turn pushes me to become more involved and try to make a difference." All of this work has also affected her career plans. Chloe came into St. Olaf planning on a double major in English and Spanish, with a desire to go into publishing, but after her work with Presente, she's having second thoughts. "I am considering switching English to something else that will help me enact change, like Soc/Anthro or Poli-Sci," says Chloe. "I want to be knowledgeable about all sorts of issues." She simply wants to travel the world and help people, maybe by teaching English or working in a foreign hospital, or by joining the Peace Corps. Until then, she'll study abroad next year (in Chile or Argentina, if things work out) and continue to work on educating her peers her at St. Olaf. 

Besides spending endless hours working for Presente, Chloe is busy elsewhere on campus as well. She plays intramural soccer, was a corridor representative her first year, a member of SARN, and works two on-campus jobs. In fact, as many Oles know, one of those jobs involve bringing Latino culture to all the movers and shakers at St. Olaf... literally! That's right, Chloe is one of two Zumba instructors that Skoglund has hired, and the only student to do so. "I knew how popular Zumba would be if it were at a time that more students could come to, so I began talking with the recreating director of Skoglund to see if I could possibly teach Zumba at night as part of my work study," Chloe said. "I memorized routines from the classes I attend, as well as from YouTube, and spent the summer practicing Zumba in my basement memorizing songs and forcing my friends to be my first class." Chloe's hard work and dedication paid off. Her Zumba classes are fun and rewarding and popular, some drawing over 80 interested students. "I love Zumba," she said, "and I love seeing the wide smiles on the student's faces during class. It really is the best workout ever!"

It's obvious that Chloe is passionate about what she does, and her one wish for other Ole ladies is to do the same. "Get involved in something you're passionate about. Pick what you really care about and explore that!" she exclaims. "Don't let others hold you back. This is college. We are here to become the people we want to be. Do what you love, and others will appreciate you for it."

Beyond helping you grow as a person, Chloe makes sure to add that it will expand your friendship circle enormously: "I think this is what has made me so happy here: knowing I have at least one friend who shares every single one of my interests, and being able to learn more about each of us, including myself, through these interests." She also is quick to point out that much of her success has come simply through perseverance, and while she admits that this is pretty standard advice, she is obviously a firm believer in it. "Many of us go out of our way to do great things, and often those things are under-appreciated or not acknowledged," she says, quite serious. "My advice is, continue to do these things. No matter how long you remain under-appreciated, the day will come that people will realize you for all you are worth."

It is also important to note that while Chloe is very serious about her passions, her passions aren't always quite so serious: "I am very passionate about the Harry Potter books," she giggles. "I would literally die without them!"