Student Senate experience: from President to candidates

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President Tiger Harris-Webster (left) and Parliamentarian Ankeet Prasai (right) are working on the 2018-19 Executive Board. Photo by: Jennifer Tharp, The Campus Ledger.

Steven Abramo

Staff reporter

sabramo@jccc.edu

The President’s story

As he stands behind a folding table draped with a blue tablecloth reading ‘Student Senate’ in all white lettering, Student Senate President, Tiger Harris-Webster, greets passing students with a warm handshake and a smile.

This brief exchange resembles the one which formed his interest in the Student Senate, roughly a year ago during Cav Kickoff 2017. Harris-Webster was approached by Student Senate members, who informed him about the ins-and-outs of each position and the impact it makes on students.

“At that time, I was like ‘wow, this is really cool,” Harris-Webster said. “They’re helping the school and being a part of something. As soon as I saw that, I wanted to join.”

Before enrolling at the college, Harris-Webster had no prior government experience of any kind. He was working two jobs and was swamped with a full-time schedule. Now, one year later, Harris-Webster is amid his second year on Student Senate.

Harris-Webster’s ascension up the Student Senate ladder is impressive. After serving one semester as a senator in the 2017-18 school year, he ran for Vice President in the spring of 2018 following the resignation of last year’s President and then finally ran for President during the summer of 2018.

The Vice President’s story 

Inside the walls of the Down Under cafeteria, Vice President Caleb Keltner explains his journey to the Student Senate. His story resembles Harris-Webster’s.

Before coming to the college, Keltner attended Turner High School in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Although he didn’t have any government experience beforehand, Keltner became a member of the Student Senate because he wanted to be involved in a club.

“I didn’t know anyone at [the college] before I came here,” Keltner said. “So I figured the best way to fix that was to be part of something.”

Keltner served as a general senator all 2017 before running for Vice President this school year.

When asked about the type of skills he’s learned since being on the Student Senate, Keltner says ‘soft skills,’ such as guiding others and learning how to work with Senate and Executive members.

The Candidate’s story

First-year student at the college, Dakota Morrison, knew he had an interest in government due to his involvement with debate and forensics for four years in high school. His interest only grew when he met Harris-Webster and Keltner at Cav Kickoff last Wednesday, Aug. 20.

“It seemed really interesting, like I could make some decisions that could impact this school,” Morrison said. “I want to get into something governmental later in life, and I thought this would be a really good place to start.”

Morrison is currently running for student senate this fall and needs 50 signatures for his name to be placed on the voting ballot. Once a member, Morrison wants to work alongside first-year students at the college, helping them feel comfortable while assuring that they do have a voice.

Morrison believes his experience working with 30-to-40 students during congressional debate meetings in high school will allow him to succeed as a senator.

“I’d like to say I’m articulate,” Morrison said. “I’m able to get my point across. I know how to listen to people. If people come to me for concerns, I know how to actively address them.”

The Secretary’s story

Sometimes, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Fernanda Morales first received word about Student Senate while attending an Honor Society meeting last year.

After serving two months as a senator in the spring of 2018, Morales’ ambitions for the organization expanded into a more significant role this fall. Now a Secretary on the Executive Board, Morales says her experience in marketing and public relations in high school has helped her excel in this new position.

In addition to running the Student Senate’s social media accounts, the bulk of Morales’ duties as a Secretary involves recruiting fellow students to join the organization.

“I’m fairly new to it, but everyone is so encouraging,” Morales said. “It’s been a good opportunity so far.”

Student Senate’s rules 

In total, there are 30 members on Student Senate; 25 senators and five Executive Board members — Secretary, Parliamentarian, Treasurer, Vice President, and President.

According to the Student Senate Constitution, students who wish to become a senator must be in good standing with the college, maintain a 2.0 GPA from the time of election until the end of the term and a Student Senator must maintain a minimum of four (4) hours each week for Senate business and activities.

The requirements are a little stiffer to be on the executive board. According to the Student Senate Constitution, in order to run for a higher-up position, students need to have served at least one semester as a senator, be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours and have at least a 2.5 GPA.

The President’s ambitions

Overall, Harris-Webster says his primary goal as Student Senate President is to make the experience at the college more enjoyable and welcoming for students.

“We’re trying to work alongside the administration to accommodate the student’s needs, also working with their goals,” Harris-Webster said.

Harris-Webster’s first step is filling up all Student Senate positions. From there, the focus transitions into initiating seven new clubs, setting up a clothing pantry and continuing to build relationships throughout the campus.

Harris-Webster said, “If there’s something I’ve learned, it’s how to approach a group of people, learn what their skills are and then incorporate that to strengthen the group. You’re learning how the school operates rather than just partaking in or going to an event.”

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