Keeper of the Dream: Zoé Rosario

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Zoé Rosario at the Keeper of the Dream Awards ceremony.

Autumn Okuszka, Features Reporter

As Oakland University junior Zoé Rosario sat at the Keeper of the Dream Awards (KOD) ceremony, she cried as she reflected on her life. She realized that she was able to prove those who thought less of her wrong.

Rosario grew up in the predominantly white community of Royal Oak, Michigan. Being of Filipino and Puerto Rican descent, she knew from a very young age that the other children she attended school with were unlike her.

“Children of color understand race a lot more than I feel like people realize,” Rosario said. “For me personally, I recognize that [in] preschool I was kind of seeking out people who looked like me already because I didn’t really see it very often.” 

Rosario recognized that the ignorance her classmates had in elementary school eventually grew into microaggressions she encountered in middle school. She caricatured herself to fit the image of what her peers wanted her to be.

“I was so young, I didn’t really realize that I was the butt of the joke,” she said. “These people who I thought were my friends were kind of using me for their own amusement.”

When Rosario entered high school, she was guided by teachers who helped her realize that she didn’t have to live in the box her classmates were placing her into. Instead of keeping her head down and not making a scene, Rosario lifted her head and began writing.

She wrote an op-ed at the end of her high school career detailing her life growing up in Royal Oak. While she received a lot of good feedback, an unspoken rule was still fresh in the back of her mind.

“When I first released it, there was some fear that was like, ‘oh god, I’m kind of setting myself up to be a target,'” Rosario said.

After Rosario’s op-ed was released, she began to mold the world she wanted to live in. When she became an OU student, Rosario ensured that she would be heavily involved in the Golden Grizzly community.

Rosario currently works as a residential tutor, as well as a proctor at Disability Support Services. She is also the president of the Filipino-American Students of Oakland University (FASOU). The group is closely aligned with The Purposeful Unconditional Service to Others (P.U.S.O.) Foundation, raising $1,200 for the foundation at their charity gala in August 2022. 

When Rosario applied for the KOD Scholarship Award, she became overwhelmed with emotion when asked what the award would mean to her.

“It’s kind of like a testament of how far I’ve come,” Rosario said. “After winning this award, it really feels like, ‘wow, I’ve really come this far.’ I’ve been able to persevere, and most importantly, I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to show others that they can be themselves.”

After graduation, Rosario hopes to become a high school teacher — to be a guiding light for students in the same way her high school teachers were for her.

“The younger generation is where we need to pay our dues,” she said. “We need to be able to bring them up with the right values and [teach] them about an accurate history of our nation, because they are going to be the next leaders of our world.” 

This article is part of a series of articles about the 2023 Keeper of the Dream Awards recipients.