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Dear HBCU Student Leaders,
Happy New Years! It’s finally 2018, a year where we’ll be open to new possibilities and opportunities for growth. I take my position as a student leader seriously. I take joy in coming to school events and seeing students smiling, happy and on Snapchat recording memorable moments. I love when I see my peers interacting with each other on the yard and on social media. I especially love seeing the freshman I nurtured and brought into my institution as an orientation leader flourishing and fearlessly living out their destiny. It fulfills me. It’s everything that I wanted as I aspired to be just like the young men and women, many now young alumni, that nurtured me as a freshman as I enrolled at my tremendous institution Fort Valley State University.
It was placed upon my heart that I spoke to all of my fellow student leaders. First, I wanted to thank you for your selfless service to your respective HBCU’s. Being in this position is a tireless job. For some, it takes well written essays, hours of servicing our communities and rigorous interview process. For others it takes a meticulously crafted Spring election campaign that rivals that of most politicians or a different type of process that bears the gains of having the privilege of representing the amazing Divine Nine and non-Pan organizations that are prominent at our historically black institutions. For a select few of us, we’re scouted from high school for our athletic abilities and are afforded money to pursue our areas of study. For all of us, it requires hours of study and razor-sharp attention in our courses of study.
The first thing I charge student leaders to keep on their minds in 2018 is to remember that we are “student leaders”, emphasis on student. In our efforts to rise in our position we sometimes lose sight of our goals. The workload we take on makes it easy for us to forget that we’re students and not salary paid employees. We sometimes skip classes to fulfill university or organizational duties attached to our position. We arrange our schedules to fulfill our positional duties and forgo important study time or even worse. We forgo our own personal development. We don’t give ourselves time to rest. We don’t give ourselves time to enjoy the full experience of being students at our institutions. Our restlessness causes us pressure and pain. We move closer and closer to breaking down. Sometimes the only thing holding us together are faith and family.
I charge you to never forget what you’re at your institution for. At the end of our college years we’re supposed to leave with a degree and experience that translates itself into wisdom. As a freshman, I was told by my orientation leader, “If you can make it through Fort Valley, you can make it anywhere in life!” I didn’t understand what he meant until I went through my first semester. So, I proudly say, “If you can make it through an HBCU, you can make it anywhere in life.” Never forget that quote while never forgetting that you are a student leader. Remember to keep your studies and personal/spiritual growth first and foremost.
The second thing I charge student leader to remember in 2018 is that as a student leader you’re not only a student but a leader. Being a leader is the most important out of this equation because being an effective student is on you. Being a leader for your university means that we’re the few that were called and chosen to represent our hundreds and thousands of peers at our institutions and beyond. We all know that. We wouldn’t be in our positions if we didn’t. However, we sometimes neglect what we know to play to our pleasure and ego. Once, I was talking to a fellow student leader and they were venting about the supposed pressure on student leaders to be “perfect”. They said, “Did they forget that we’re students? Did they forget that we’re human?”
Yes, we are students that are human. We make mistakes and have missteps in our walk. None of us are perfect. We weren’t created to be. However, we have the ability to learn from our mistakes and become wiser in our positions. We don’t have to walk around as if we’re perfect. We just need to always be the best we can be. Being a leader doesn’t mean that you’re better than anyone. It means that you understand that there’s something bigger than you that you must represent.
I charge you to remember what you were chosen as a leader to do in 2018. Leaders don’t abuse their power. Leaders don’t mask their desires through the veil of leadership so they can accomplish something they wouldn’t have been able to achieve if they weren’t thrusted into the spotlight that student leadership affords us. We can’t allow our lust for women/men and our desire for personal advancement to deter us for our mission. We must remember everything that we do affects everyone around us in a positive or negative way. You have the power to impact the lives of thousands of people through your service. Make the right impact.
Our position as student leaders is what keeps our universities moving. We’re the voice of the student body. We bring energy to the yard. We’re big brothers and sisters to our underclassman peers. You never know who you’re inspiring. You never know whose life you’re changing. Continue to grow in your journey and encourage those you serve in your student leadership to do the same.
If we remember this, 2018 will be the year that HBCU life reigns supreme. Fellow student leaders, I wish you all the best and I can’t wait to see the tremendous things you achieve in this new year!
Author, Ambassador, Student Leader
Fort Valley State University, 2017 White House HBCU All-Star Ambassador