Omaha – I wanted to get to know the new CPACS student government senators better, so I asked them to meet with me. I was very interested in what motivates them toward leadership positions at UNO, especially in UNO Student Government. They described events that influenced their belief system and helped them to decide what pathway to follow. They agreed that hard work, dedication to a purpose, compassion, equity, and social justice are dominant themes in their lives.
Ali described working on the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference, the largest student-led LGBTQIA+ college conference in the nation. The event drew 1,500 students from across the country to UNO. She explained that one of her roles was to raise funds for the conference. She requested funding from large corporations and local non-profits. Additionally, Ali spoke with each dean from UNO’s colleges to request support the conference. Each college was supportive toward this effort. I asked her what she would have done if she had faced challenges in her requests. She said that facing challenges makes her want to do something even more, so she would have found a way to help the deans understand the importance of the event.
Dalton intended to be a student in a pre-med track with majors in biology and chemistry, but started learning more about social justice initiatives worldwide and changed his major to social work. Dalton was a student in Professor Ann Coyne’s special studies course on Nicaragua. UNO and National Autonomous University of Nicaragua-Leon students communicated electronically throughout the spring semester and planned to met in person during the summer session at UNAN. He was excited to go to Nicaragua. However, that summer UNAN students protested against the government in what they felt was a corrupt and authoritarian rule by President Ortega. In response, UNO canceled the travel plans to Nicaragua due to the unsafe conditions. Dalton sadly stated that some UNAN-Leon students and faculty who had been corresponding with UNO students throughout the spring semester were victims. Some were injured and killed in these assaults. Hearing this tragic news left a deep impression on him, but inspired his advocacy to continue, reaching out to others to help them find their voice.
Ali and Dalton agree that the moral of these stories is that everyone has a calling and pathway to follow. Sometimes well-laid plans do not always go as planned, so you have to find another way to complete your journey. Both Dalton and Ali described some very painful stories in their lives that helped me to understand how important integrity is to character. Both students have faced incredible challenges and stood in the fire, and from the choices they made when faced with those challenges, emerged very strong individuals. Their stories illuminate answers to my original question: what motivates you? For Ali and Dalton, the answer is simple: do the right thing and then you will have little to no regrets later; build coalitions with community; develop self-efficacy; and it is okay to be stubborn at times.
It was a pleasure to speak in-depth with Dalton and Ali about their lives. I encouraged them to reach out to CPACS students who would like to pursue a dialogue such as the one we shared. Leadership inspires leadership and these two leaders have stories to share but more importantly understanding the special something that makes us persist in our journey.
Submitted by Theresa Barron-McKeagney, Feb. 14, 2019
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