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Student Spotlight

Pam Peigler

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Growing up, Nicole Bonfiglio had a harder time fitting in than most people since she moved from her native country — Turkey — at the age of six.

The 22-year-old senior at Western Illinois University is also a cheerleader and double major in psychology and law enforcement and justice administration.

Bonfiglio said she is very involved and social at Western; however, she wasn’t always that way.

Bonfiglio was also born in Turkey, but moved to the U.S. when she was 6 years old, because her father needed to be in California to serve in the Air Force.  

Bonfiglio said growing up in a country she was not a native to was difficult at times, especially since she spoke fluent Turkish.

“It was hard (growing up in California) because…I look ethnic,” Bonfiglio said. “I have dark skin, darker hair, so when you move to California, you don’t look like the other girls. You get picked on a lot more (by the) blond hair, blue-eyed girl that is sitting next to you with her cookie cutter sandwich. Instead, I have like a gyro next to me, and I am eating lamb for lunch.”

She said she got picked on because she struggled with the English language, until she was approximately 10 years old.

“The language barrier was also difficult because in English, there is a lot of slang,” Bonfiglio said. “In Turkey, (the language) is very professional.”

She said after her parents  divorced, she began to move around a lot. When Bonfiglio was 10, she moved to Illinois to live with her grandparents. She said despite living in Illinois, she enjoys California the most.

“That was really hard,” Bonfiglio said. “Through it, I learned to adapt. So, I feel like that has only benefited me for my future. I can make friends with a doorknob if I really wanted to. It gave me great social skills even though it sucked at the time.”

Bonfiglio said her biggest struggle was growing up with divorced parents. However, she said she is surrounded by friends who  are blessed to have both parents living with them.

“I envy that, and I am happy for them, but it makes you realize not to take anything for granted,” Bonfiglio said. 

Now, Bonfiglio said she has a brighter future ahead of her. With a 3.4 GPA, she is the academic representative for the cheerleading squad. She said it seems like she lives at the library and that cheerleading is one of her incentives for getting good grades. 

Bonfiglio said when she is not in the library studying, she runs. She said she has ran half marathons and plans on running a full marathon after school slows down.

Currently, Bonfiglio is involved in cheerleading, the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and the investigators club at Western.

She said she chose Western because it wasn’t too far or too close from her home, which she considers to be St. Louis. In St. Louis, she lives with her grandparents because her mom lives in California and her father lives in Kansas.

“I don’t really like big campuses, but I still wanted the university feel,” Bonfiglio said.

Upon graduation in December, she has an internship set up for the following spring. When she finishes her internship, she said she wants to go to graduate school for child and adolescent treatment and make a non-profit organization for abused children and battered women.

“Growing up, I had a lot of experience with women that have been in those situations and couldn’t get out,” Bonfiglio said. “(I have also had experience with) children that have had problems with their families and just didn’t have a way out, either. So, they were just scared to do anything about it. They just lived their lives miserably abused or hurt. At a young age, that ruins your self-confidence, and it’s really hard to grow up with that, so I really want to change some things around.”

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