In the midst of graduations and goodbyes, a new wave of student leaders is rising.
The Student Government Association (SGA) held its elections recently, and the newly elected SGA presidents and vice presidents are getting ready for the year.
SGA-MMC will be headed by President Alian Collazo and Vice President Michelle Juarez. At the helm of SGA-BBC are Allhan Mejia, who was voted into office for the second consecutive year, and vice president Michema Lafontant.
“After everything FIU has given me, this is the way to give back to the students and the institution,” says Juarez, who is a first-generation college student earning a dual degree in international relations and psychology. “I’m definitely a proud Panther.”
For SGA-MMC President Alian Collazo, being involved in SGA reminds him that civic involvement in the U.S. is privilege.
“I was born in Cuba, and I lived there until I was eight years old,” Collazo explains. “I saw there’s no real idea of public service in Cuba, there’s no representation of the people. I got to this country, and I saw that you can really make a difference as an individual through the basis of representation. That is something we take for granted because many of us are born into it. But, it’s a privilege.”
Collazo, an international relations major, says reaching out to students and making sure they are included in SGA is vital.
“We need to be a multifaceted government. Every possibility we have, we need to engage students at FIU, for them not to feel like there’s a disconnect between student government and ourselves.”
Among the initiatives Collazo and Juarez plan to lead: Having the Panther Mover stop at every garage at MMC, expanding the food pantry and hosting job fairs for on-campus jobs.
“SGA is the voice of the students,” says public relations major SGA-BBC Vice President Michema Lafontant. “SGA hears people’s opinions and tries to get it done. If you’re on the inside looking out [as an SGA cabinet member], you grow as a person and want to help others. If you’re on the outside looking in, you see people getting things done, and you feel empowered and want to do things yourself.”
SGA-BBC President Mejia, who is earning a dual degree in marketing and sustainability, says he ran for a second term because his work wasn’t done. And because he already knows the ins and outs of the job, he’s ready to roll out projects smoothly.
One such project: a Zen garden at BBC, complete with plants that attract butterflies – an idea that originated with graduate student David Riera.
“We have this outdoor space at BBC where we want to put a chalkboard up, called the wall of positivity,” explains Mejia. “Any member of the BBC community can go and write something positive about their day. The point is to create a nice outdoor space where they can go create something beautiful and meditate, if they want to.”
The duo will also work to secure a shuttle for residents of the new Bayview Student Living at FIU at BBC.
The newly elected student leaders officially take office later this month.