My high school years ended in tragedy and isolation. A close friend had died after an accident almost a week before graduation, my clique quickly grew apart as our summer had progressed, and I distanced myself from family members and other friends to deal with such a drastic and sad change in my life. Throughout my summer, I isolated myself, and before long I had lost almost all motivation to pursue a college degree; however, I knew that I needed some kind of education and/or training, so I ultimately considered just stopping after receiving an associate degree and immediately entering the workforce.
I came into Waubonsee Community College with a lack of enthusiasm and confidence, and every day for my first two weeks I would sit in the cafeteria on the Sugar Grove campus between my classes and refrain from talking to anyone. I drew pictures, wrote poems and quietly sang to myself while I waited for a friend who I regularly drove to campus to finish his classes. No one knew or expected anything of me. However, all of that changed when I ran for Student Senate.
Suddenly, I was expected to talk to people – introduce myself, my intentions, shake hands, the whole nine yards! Of course, I was nervous, but as my campaign went on, I grew excited at the thought of sitting in such a role.
I was one of three winners of the election and was seated immediately. In the process of all of my campaigning, I made wonderful friends and was welcomed into two on-campus organizations. By this point, you could say that I was completely out of my shell.
Every day I was on campus, meeting with students and club members, planning events and participating in collegewide activities.
At the end of my spring semester, I was honored to be elected as the Student Trustee for the 2017-18 school year and appointed as an officer of one of my organizations, Latinos Unidos. Suddenly, my responsibilities skyrocketed and the people around me not only knew of me, but some of them even depended on me.
I can surely say that both of these positions provided their own challenges and experiences. As an officer of Latinos Unidos, I was responsible for working with a team and providing valuable ideas to keep the organization in good shape. As the student trustee, I was responsible for providing the voice of the student body to the board of trustees, as well as learning about how our college is operated and managed.
Around the end of my fall semester of last year, our previous president of Latinos Unidos stepped down and I was asked to fill her role. At that point, my responsibilities increased once again. I was then expected to make executive decisions and tasked with the role of leading a group of individuals with varying ideas ... a task that isn’t always the easiest to do.
My final semester was nothing but eventful. We gained a steady membership and were once again a prominent organization of the college.
It has been tough, really, to be constantly in one leadership role after the next, especially with them getting more difficult as time goes on, but I’m nothing special. Honestly, anyone can do the work I’ve done. If it were not for the help of administrators and the admirable leadership of my executive board, I would not have been able to keep up with every email and task flying at me daily, and that’s OK!
We as individuals will never stop developing. Most of us likely make a healthy balance of mistakes and good decisions, but will inevitably learn from each of them despite their outcomes. It’s just a fact of life. It’s what defines us as human beings.
After countless hours of work and conversations with administrators, faculty and students, I’ve developed a new attitude and a better mentality, yet it is still a work in progress.
Throughout my time here, I have worked with amazing people whom I’ve come to admire and appreciate more than ever. I’ll never forget the mentoring I’ve received from the board of trustees or any of the help that so many administrators and faculty have offered me. ... I can assure anyone that Waubonsee Community College is a wonderful place that offers opportunities, an exemplary education and a strong sense of community. I am proud to have studied at such an institution and will surely be sad when my work here is complete.
If I had any advice to give anyone, whether they’re a new student or someone just with a mind hungry for improvement and opportunities, I would tell them to reach out and ask for help. There are so many people around you who are willing to lend a hand. Also, don’t be discouraged if times get difficult. The best thing to do is to keep working. As my father once told me, “If you have a problem, jump right in the middle of it and come out swinging!”
J. David Vera is a student trustee for the Waubonsee Community College. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.