The saying goes, If you can make it at an HBCU, you can make it anywhere. It’s sort of a double-entendre because HBCUs are really great at nurturing student leaders who move on to impact the world.
However, the lengths taken to be in leadership are usually taken to extremes. Some students like Sydney Kelly, a rising third year biology pre-medicine student, believes character is everything when serving as a student leader.
“Growing up my mom always told me do whatever you feel is right. Whatever happens the people in your life that love you will support you regardless,” she said. “Nobody is perfect. I feel like if you really do believe you can make a change and an impact then you know don’t hesitate.”
Kelly serves as the public relations chair for the 2022 FAMU Class Cabinet. According to Kelly, sometimes the added pressure of being looked up to by other students can influence some leaders’ behavior. She says you just have to try your best in whatever position you are in.
Kelly says than when you have a vision, you just have to see it through.
“You never know, you could be that one person that goes out and starts something that others have always wanted to start but never had the motivation or the guts to really do it,” she said. “You could always be a voice for other people, not just yourself.”
Too often, the character of a leader is overshadowed by popularity and secret alliances to the detriment of the entire student body. This leads to leaders who will win elections by any means necessary.
This is a pattern that routinely oppresses other members of the student body. It weakens what we like to call the FAMUly spirit. Many students feel that they can’t be involved and active because of fear that they are unaligned with the goals of incumbent leaders.
This is why HBCUs are the perfect breeding ground, because you experience some of the most trying adversity at the collegiate level. It’s a microcosm to understand political affiliations, vested interests and develop a code of personal ethics.
The mark of a student leader is their character and integrity. When everything is done, people will always remember how you made them feel. Whether you seemed trustworthy, if you keep your promises, whether you used your position to oppress others.
It’s not necessary to hold a position to be a student leader. Kelly recounted that she would often bring forth ideas without having an official title, but leaders always supported her and encouraged her to act.