On paper, their backgrounds were very different.
Preptit, of Bristol, Tenn., is the son of Haitian refugees. Before Preptit was born, his father served on Haiti’s Parliament until a political coup in 1991 put the family’s lives in danger. Preptit’s parents and his four older siblings fled the new regime, hiding in a cave and later leaving Haiti on a raft. They were rescued off Guantánamo Bay and given political asylum in the United States, where Preptit was born.
Treviño was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and grew up in Brownsville, Texas, a city located on the U.S.-Mexico border. His parents were born in Mexico and later moved to the U.S. His father has dual American and Mexican citizenship since his grandfather served in the Vietnam War. In Brownsville Treviño developed an interest in law and politics through the influence of his father and an involvement in the Boy Scouts of America.
Now juniors, Preptit and Treviño decided to attend Milligan through the college’s Goah Diversity Scholars Program. This program provides a tuition-remission scholarship to undergraduate students who enhance the educational experience of all Milligan students by sharing their diverse cultural experiences.
“The first time I stepped foot on Milligan’s campus was on move-in day, and that was the day I met Jeff,” Treviño said. “He was my first friend on campus and now he’s one of my best friends.”
The roommates quickly found out how much they have in common, including a keen interest in politics and a shared major in political science.
Both of them serve in student leadership roles, as well. Since his freshman year, Preptit has been involved with the Student Government Association; this year he serves as SGA president. Treviño is the president of the Goah Diversity Scholars and for the last two years has served with Milligan’s IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program.
While they share a passion for politics and service, the roommates are on opposite sides of the political fence. Preptit founded a campus club for Democrats, while Treviño did the same for Republicans.
“Yes, we disagree on politics, but the way we civilly discuss those things makes our friendship strong,” Treviño said. “There are ways to have your own opinion and not attack other people for theirs, and Jeff and I are an example of that.”
Some of their classmates expected that there might be some tension between the roommates during the 2012 presidential election. However, the election year discourse did not strain the friendship.
“We went into the election season knowing that we weren’t always going to agree,” Preptit said. “We watched the first presidential debate together, and it was really a good experience. Being able to discuss and debate with someone who has different opinions encourages you to think on a deeper level.”
During his freshman year, Preptit formed the Milligan Progressives Club, an organization for Milligan students who are interested in the ideals of the Democratic Party. While he enjoys following national politics, his true interest lies in international relations. He hopes to work for the U.S. Department of State and eventually open his own freelance diplomacy firm.
Last summer, Preptit had the opportunity to work in Washington, D.C., with the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), an agency of the United Methodist Church that is committed to working toward social justice within society.
He was one of 11 people chosen for the Ethnic Young Adults intern program. Each intern was assigned to work with a non-profit organization that promotes social justice. Preptit was assigned to the Syria Emergency Task Force (SETF), which was created to support Syria’s demand for freedom and democracy.
While working for SETF, he was responsible for maintaining social media sites, writing opinion editorials, attending various events and Congressional hearings around Washington that pertained to Syria, along with planning an interfaith event that explored the role of faith communities in engaging humanitarian crises.
“My time with the task force helped to reaffirm what I want to do with my life,” Preptit said. “It is every international relations student’s dream to bring about peace, but it is also my duty as a Christian to continue to work to have God’s kingdom come.”
Likewise, Treviño is gaining experience at Milligan and on a larger platform. Last summer, he interned at a Brownsville law office, gaining many hours of courtroom experience. His goal is to become a lawyer and specialize in immigration issues.
At Milligan, he formally organized the student Republican group and made it an official organization under the Student Government Association. He recruited 30 members during the first sign-up period and created Milligan’s first official chapter recognized by the statewide organization, the Tennessee College Republican Committee (TNCR). Now in its second year, Milligan’s College Republican club has grown to 50 members.
TNCR is the umbrella organization for all College Republican chapters in the state and is the voice of young conservatives in Tennessee. With chapters in all grand divisions of the state and all sizes of schools, TNCR exists to provide representation and resources to enhance the College Republican experience in Tennessee.
Last spring, Treviño was elected state secretary at the Annual Tennessee College Republican State Convention in Nashville. In addition, he is the candidate for the East Tennessee vice chair position under TNCR. The ceremony will take place in Nashville at the State Capitol on April 5.
Dr. Patricia Magness, interim director of Milligan’s Goah Diversity Scholars Program, appreciates the good example and multicultural awareness that both students bring to the campus.
“Luis is hard working, determined and ambitious, but he always takes the time to be kind,” Magness said. “He is an effective spokesperson for the Goah Diversity Scholars Program to others on campus, and he eagerly shares the vision for multicultural understanding at our Goah Diversity Scholar meetings.
“I was impressed with Jeff from the very first time we met,” she added. “Even the way he shook my hand and looked me in the eye, I could tell that he was ready for leadership. He greets people with a smile, he is a good listener and he is committed to making this world a better place. Even when he disagrees with people, he treats them and their ideas with respect.”
Though their lives have been influenced by very different circumstances, Preptit and Treviño are grateful that their paths crossed at Milligan.
“I love the Milligan community and the opportunities and support I’ve received here,” Treviño said. “That is one reason I serve — I want to give back.”
His roommate agrees.
“Milligan continues to strive to reflect the diversity of God’s creation, and I am glad I can be a part of that,” Preptit said.
MILLIGAN COLLEGE is a Christian liberal arts college in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The college offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs. To learn more about Milligan College, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.