A new school year is chaotic for everyone, but no group feels the pressure more acutely than the freshman class. The transition to college life is an overwhelming one in every sense: social, academic and otherwise. However, while the Lyon cubs are merely trying to get their feet under them, a few are already seeking leadership roles within the Wheaton community.
Throughout the past few weeks, several members of the class of 2023 have campaigned and won positions in the Student Government Association (SGA). While these students are new faces on campus, their positions ensure that their presence will reverberate throughout every aspect of the Wheaton community. Here are the first-year members of Wheaton’s 2023 SGA body.
While the subsequent members of SGA, to be discussed, won tight electoral races, Sophie Waters, the 2023 marketing and communications representative, took her seat unopposed. Showing good humor, Waters arrived at the podium without a speech and simply made her presence known. While this may concern some, Waters’ enthusiasm to take point on such an integral, but undervalued position shows excellent character.
Cleef Jonathas, class chair of 2023, believes in the greater good of the Wheaton community. To the extent that he advocated simply for the students to be engaged and vote–whether that vote was cast in his favor or not. While he could not attend the speech session in person, he represented himself with a video where he spoke voiced his strong belief in community engagement.
More or less, Jonathas said to vote for whom you believe in, asking, in his own words, to “BeCleef in yourself.” Although his campaign slogan was elementary, he provided a choice to his peers rather than commanding them to vote in his favor. This tactic proved to be genius, setting himself out among his self-aggrandizing peers.
In contrast, 2023 treasurer, Guthrie Hartsfield, took another approach to his campaign with a compelling argument in his favor. In attendance at SGA’s Speech Night, he expressed his student government background as a junior in high school. Soon after the Las Vegas and Orlando shootings occurred, a fearful and tenacious Hartsfield felt as though action needed to be taken.
A Vermont native living in a state with notoriously loose gun laws, he rallied a group of peers to march to the Montpelier statehouse and demanded gun reform. Despite belittlement by his local politicians, claiming that he and his peers were ignorant and could not make a change, Hartsfield persevered and the Governor asked to speak with the teens.
After a discussion with the right-wing Governor, Hartsfield and others changed the conservative’s mind on Vermont’s gun laws. As a result of Hartfield’s advocacy, regulations such as expanding background checks, raising the purchasing age of guns to 21, and other minor changes were implemented.
In an interview, Hartsfield stated that his hope is “that it showed other students in the state that they can make a difference and stand up for the change they want to see.” With this background in politics, Hartfield offered a voice to his peers, proving that progress on this campus can and will be made with his representation in SGA.
Much like Harfield, 2023 member at large, Ciara Kilkenny, touched on her political advocacy background. Kilkenny held a small position at the Rhode Island State House proving her suitability for the position. Parallel to Jonathas, Kilkenny had an advocacy-focused slogan proclaiming that “a vote for [her] is a vote for [your] voice.”
Joining her as the male representative member at large is Jorge A. Herrara-Rosa. While Rosa said little to say, his words carried weight, subsequently carrying him into the position. His charge to “tie up loose ends” in the Wheaton community resonated with students. The pair of Kilkenny and Rosa are sure to represent the class well.
The election process wrapped up last Thursday the 12, however interestingly enough, the position for education council chair resulted in a tie eliciting a new race for this position. The two candidates vying for the slot in a run-off are Ashita Katariya and Shamar Mahon.
Due to a lab conflict, Katariya could not attend the speech night, however much like the newly elected class chair, she recorded a video voicing her concerns for the Wheaton community. Among those concerns, the topic of multicultural education for all was her key point.
Elaborating, she shared her commitment to a methodical plan to achieve a more diverse community at Wheaton. To name a few points, she would like to work hand in hand with WheAccess as well as the Filene Center to create a dialog on how to thrive academically while collaborating with faculty.
Shamar Mahon, Katariya’s competition, has progressive ideas of his own. To get the support of his female voters, he spoke of his past work with SGA to push several free tampon and pad dispensers across campus.
On a broader note, Mahon concluded his speech with the wise words, “there’s no way you can stand on the sidelines when decisions are being made” and asked his audience of fellow campaigners and voters, “what legacy will you leave?” Although both candidates showed great candor and determination in their campaigns, just last week, the run-off for the position resulted in Katariya being officially elected as Education Council Chair.
The Student Government Association should not be run like a high school movie featuring the most popular contenders. Instead, it should uphold individuals fit to organize the community. As SGA has shown its commitment to change in the past, this year will not be any different.
As this election season wraps up, these first-year leaders show great promise in the pursuit to better the Wheaton Community with their various backgrounds and visions. The leaders from the class of 2023 will not allow for any issue to go overlooked.