Loyola Magazine

ALANA Director helps student find his place and flourish

Mentorship provides foundation for success—and friendship—far beyond Loyola
Daelin Cook and Raven Williams sitting on a long, blue couch talking and smiling
Daelin Cook, ’23, enjoys conversation with his friend and mentor, Raven Williams, director of Loyola’s ALANA Services, in the Center for Intercultural Engagement in the Andrew White Student Center. Photo by Christopher Meyers.

When Daelin Cook, ’23, attended an open house for accepted students prior to his first year at Loyola, he came across as something of an introvert, remembers Raven Williams.

But as he started getting involved on campus, the University’s director of ALANA (African, Latinx, Asian, and Native American) Services quickly realized Cook was anything but shy.

“I had the opportunity to watch him blossom, and four years later, he evolved into one of our strongest student leaders,” recalls Williams.

From that first meeting, Cook felt an instant bond with Williams, whom he affectionately calls “Ms. Raven.” “When she said, ‘I’ll look out for you and make sure you’re OK,’ I believed it,” he says.

The chance meeting helped Cook decide to attend Loyola—and ultimately turned into a mentoring relationship that would shape his four years on campus.

We have to make sure we’re intentional with our outreach—that we’re extending that hand and saying, ‘We’re glad you’re here, and we want to support you.’

“Growing up in New York, I always knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. I believe I have a purpose to help people, give back, and be a positive influence,” explains Cook, who said he was first drawn to Loyola because “it felt like the perfect place for me to accomplish my goals and be a part of a community that shared my personal values.”

He ended up getting involved in everything from the executive board of the Black Student Association to the Evergreen student leader program, helping new students transition to Loyola from summer orientation through their first year, to the highly selective Green & Grey Society.

Williams also mentored Cook in the prestigious Ignatius Scholars Program and connected him with the Multicultural Awareness Program (MAP), a program for incoming first-year students before the start of the academic year, for which he later became a navigator to help other students.

“Throughout all these steps, Ms. Raven had been there guiding me. She’s always been there when I need her—not just socially, but academically as well,” says Cook.

He recalls a time when he was struggling with both homesickness and his heavy courseload as a biopsychology major in Loyola’s Pre-Health Programs (on the pre-nursing track) while also pursuing a business minor. “She helped me with my time management and connected me with so many different resources I needed to succeed.”

Those efforts paid off. Cook is now pursuing a graduate degree in nursing at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and is interested in becoming either a nurse anesthetist or a nurse practitioner in the future. “I am ready to continue my work in nursing and stay in Baltimore for this next chapter,” he shares.

“He’s really done all the heavy lifting, and I’ve just been here to encourage him and support him,” says Williams, who has been working at Loyola since 2014.

To Williams, finding a mentor is crucial. “As I have navigated my own career, I really appreciate the mentors that have kept me encouraged and shared resources that I was not aware of,” she says.

And while she notes that ALANA Services is open to all students, she stresses that finding these types of resources can be particularly important to students of color as they navigate a predominately white institution.

“I want to make sure students know that they are included, that they have that sense of belonging,” says Williams. “We have to make sure we’re intentional with our outreach—that we’re extending that hand and saying, ‘We’re glad you’re here, and we want to support you.’”