Meet Evangelyne Eliason: CU Representative-At-Large

Sophomore Evangelyne Eliason ran a winning campaign to become one of CU’s Representatives-At-Large using her platform Project K.I.N.D. In this interview, we delve deeper into how Project K.I.N.D. started, how she plans to sustain it, and what the project means for CU students. 

 

  1. 1. Her Campus CU Boulder: How and when did you decide you wanted to run for office?

    Evangelyne Eliason: “So I was thinking about it all summer [about] like what I wanted to do in Student Government because I was in Student Government during the spring semester. I was an intern for the Chief of Staff, which is on the executive branch, and I loved it there; I was like, “oh my God, what do I want to do?”. So I was thinking about just sticking with the executive branch because a lot of [that] branch works with students and student interests so I was looking at the non-traditional student liaison and the international student liaison [positions]. So I was looking at those things, praying about it. 

    And then I was thinking, “that’s like bill writing why would I want to do that?” and the next day someone asked me, then the next day someone else asked me. So I started doing some research about it, and that’s when I started thinking ‘this might be more my style’. So I’d say it was probably closer to September when I was thinking about it, and I was pretty sure in October that I was going to do it.”

  2. 2. HCCU: How did you come up with Project K.I.N.D.? What does it mean to you? 

    EE: “Okay, this is a great story, I’m very passionate about this. So starting the fall semester, when I came for freshman year, I already knew that I wanted to do Student Government, but I didn’t know how it worked. But in my dorm, there’s a community council, so I was like, great I’m gonna do this, so I ran for that. Long story short, I lost but the person that did win it was like, “oh I don’t want to do it” so I got to do that and it was really cool. With that we got to do a lot of initiatives for the dorm[s], just like fun events; we had a Halloween event, Friendsgiving, we got Chick-Fil-A,[and] just a lot of random events. And getting close to the end of last year, I wanted to do something that was very “me”. So that’s when I started thinking about Project K.I.N.D. 

    The way I see it is like [this]... there’s been a lot of pain and things like that in this world, and especially America. And I think America hasn’t gone through the healing process that it needs to, which starts with acknowledging all the things that come to the surface, even though they’ve been around all this time. So I see kindness as the foundation for how we can go through the healing process the proper way. Because it’s going to be a lot, I think it’s not an easy process, you know? All those different things. So in June, I started posting on my account specifically for Project K.I.N.D. [‘officialprojectkind’ on Instagram]. My first post was “Show Radical Kindness” which is kind of part of the catchphrase because I think some people don’t realize how radical kindness is. But for me, kindness is pretty radical, so I was posting on it all summer. So I was just brainstorming how I wanted to make kindness tangible when it comes to government and policy and things like that. Which is kind of how I came up with the process of kindness, initiative, negotiation, and diversity. Because I kind of see kindness as the framework through which all these things can happen.”

  3. 3. HCCU: What was your reaction when you realized you were elected?

    EE: “I was in the car with some friends and I knew that they were going to send us the email and 9, so at like 8:50 I started reloading my email and I was like, oh my God. And my friend was like, “just don’t look at it” and I was like, I have to check. So I kept reloading it and it came in and I was reading through it and thinking, wait does that mean I was elected? When I saw it I was so excited, I was super happy, honestly, I just felt super honored. Honored that people would see my vision and were not just voting for me because they know me, but because they see my vision. I don’t think I know 647 people, I mean there’s a chance, but I think the people that did vote for me that I didn’t know [voted] because they see that vision. So, I don’t know, it just made me really excited because I’m super passionate about kindness and making people realize that being kind doesn’t mean letting people walk over you, it doesn’t mean accepting abuse, and that you can be kind and still fight for change and all those different things. So, I was just super excited, I was hype.” 

     

  4. 4. HCCU: What were you most proud of during your campaign?

    EE: “I’d definitely say that my proudest moment was a video I posted. I’m a very verbose person, I love talking, I love explaining things and giving context. Also, when it comes to interacting with people or catching people’s attention, [I like explaining] things that have to do with government, [which] can become overwhelming if there’s too much in one. The video where the opening line said, “if there’s anything I’ve learned in 2020, it’s that you gotta dance like no one’s watching” that video was one hundred percent my proudest moment because it was just so “me” and I just dance in the most random places for absolutely no reason, just absolutely no reason. It showed me how far I’ve come, and to be who I am, undeniably. Being able to share that, knowing that some people will be like, “why is she dancing?” and still [be able] to state what my vision is, what my mission is, what I stand for, the issues and what I’m going to focus on. I think there’s this: I don’t know if the word is stigma, but there’s this understanding that politicians or people in leadership roles are super unapproachable or harder to relate to. I  was really excited to still be able to maintain who I am and do it in a fun way that people could relate to and still be myself and share the things that I’m into.”

     

  5. 5. HCCU: What do you hope to accomplish during your time in office?

    EE: “Going in, my number one thing is I always want to make sure that if I say I’m going to do something,  I’m going to do it. Which is kind of why, throughout the campaign, I was talking a lot about the process, kind of like the recipe I would use to approach different issues because, at the end of the day, once I learn what I’m able to do, then I’ll have a more concrete understanding of what type of change I’m able to make. 

    But in general, I’m super excited and my top 3 focuses for sure are definitely going to be addressing racial injustice on campus. [Relating to] Project K.I.N.D., all that time I was thinking about it and while it was growing was during the time after George Floyd’s murder. So Black Lives Matter is definitely one of the thoughts in the [forefront] of my mind when it comes to racial injustice. So I’m just hoping to work with different clubs to find out what they’ve been trying to push and see how I can be a part of that. Another thing is transparency. That’s less issue-focused I guess, and more so making Student Government approachable for people and making it a lot less daunting. And then the last one is mental health, particularly for first-year students. I think mental health [support] is something all students could use, but there are a lot of students on this campus so specializing is a good starting point. And I feel like especially now, with COVID, it’s just a lot harder on first-year students, so while they’re all in one place, that’s where you want to build that foundation for community and connection so that when they do move out to different places, they still have those connections, and maybe even some can feed into the incoming freshmen.” 

  6. 6. HCCU: How do you stay motivated to fight for change?

    EE: “I definitely think that burnout is real. So it can be kind of hard sometimes. For me, like full transparency, the way I stay motivated is Jesus. Like one hundred percent just being who I am, that is how I keep going strong because, for me, He is like my biggest inspiration for kindness. Him, being willing to die for other people to no benefit for himself, so just remembering, for example, for Him and the sacrifices He made so that I could live, and beyond that remembering the sacrifices that my parents have made, the sacrifices that other [people] like Martin Luther King and the sacrifices that he made. I think that’s usually what keeps me going, like remembering the people that are depending on me in the future and the people that helped me get to where I am today. Also, I love watching Big Brother, I’ll dabble in the Bachelorette every now and then and other random self-care [practices] which kind of supplement that, but at the end of the day I couldn’t do anything without Jesus, so that’s how I stay motivated.” 

  7. 7. HCCU: What do you think will be the toughest part of your position?

    EE: I’ll definitely say that one of my biggest fears is letting people down. Even just from one semester of Student Government, there’d be things going that I’d hear the student body perspective- like bottom looking up-and the executive branch perspective. And then with the chief of staff perspective of knowing extra information where I was able to understand why certain decisions were being made and why certain information was going certain places and just being able to understand where the student body was coming from and all of those conflicting things. So I think the hardest thing would just be the fear of not being able to deliver because of bureaucratic things or maybe the bill or whatever initiative doesn’t turn out with the effect that it should. And then just trying to find out how to authentically represent the student voice because there are , so, so many opinions [and] thoughts and some are more popular or less accepted than others. So trying to do all that and still have my voice and figure out how to balance and share my thoughts on certain things.”

  8. 8. HCCU: What is the very first thing you want to get done?

    EE: “Well first and foremost, [as] I said, my process is kindness, initiative, negotiation, and diversity. So for me, the very very first step is initiative, which is just talking to different clubs, specifically relating to the CUPD. I actually had a meeting with Mixed CU the other day and sometime next week with CU Restorative Justice Club. And I’m hoping to meet with BSA and ASA and just getting a gauge for what they’ve been fighting for and how that’s going to look. So I think I just want to see where the conversation is and what the CU community needs and what those funds are looking like. Then I can see where that is in comparison to where we want to be, you know? Just get a feel for those things then I guess you could say, apply pressure, to continue to move because I think we’re all on the same team. If we’re all on the team of protecting our students then applying pressure is exactly what I should be doing, that’s kind of how I see it. Through that, I think that’s like my first focus in terms of something that I want to get my foot in.”

  9. 9. HCCU: How can the student body help you reach your goals as a Representative?

    EE: “Honestly I think at the moment my number one connection to the student body is through my Instagram account, so I think being interactive on there, and I know everyone is super busy, but I plan on putting out some polls and things like that. But I think just stay engaged there because I want to represent the true student voice and that can be difficult if there isn’t anything being said. I think that and I like having a good time so I want everybody to be happy so I also plan on doing some other non-CUSG related things just to promote kindness because at the end of the day I want to see a kinder campus. The whole point of legislation is to protect people that are being marginalized and don’t have a voice. But in a perfect world, we wouldn’t even need that legislation for people to be protected in that way, you know what I’m saying? We’d never have to have laws that say, “white men should be allowed to vote” and things like that because it’s just automatically assumed. So in a perfect world, we wouldn’t even need legislation, so I just genuinely want to see a kinder campus.”

     

  10. 10. HCCU: You mentioned during the CUSG Town Hall that “you may think something is impossible because you’ve never seen it done”. What would you say to women of color who are hesitant to do something because they’ve never seen it done before? 

    EE: “I honestly would just say to think of not only the children, like our children, or the people coming after us that will be relying on us, not just them, but doing it for your past self. Because I’m also doing this for 14-year-old Evangelyne, so I guess I would say, whatever you’re doing, do it for the younger version of yourself because that version still lives within you and prevents you from doing certain things. Also, at the end of the day, there is nothing that a white man can do that I can’t do. I know that one hundred percent. There’s nothing that someone in a different socioeconomic status can do that I can not do, there’s nothing, I am fully convinced. So I guess I’d say also to just find a community of supporters whether it’s other women of color or just people in your life that believe in you. And just run with what you have, find mentors, and just consistently remind yourself of your why and what you’re doing it all for."

    "[As] I said, I’m doing it for the past version of myself, I’m doing it for my baby sisters - I come from a family of 10 so there’s a bunch of us, I’m the oldest - but I’m doing it for them and I genuinely don’t want the world to continue to look like this. I don’t want to live in a world like that so everybody has different whys, whether it’s for an older version of yourself or a particular issue, and for me, I can’t live in a world that’s just full of apathy. So yeah, just remind yourself of your why and keep calm, carry on, ignore the haters, and just be like, 'I’m not the one.'"

This interview really opened my eyes to what’s to come for CUSG, and it also provided some solid advice on how to keep pushing while still having a great time. Hopefully, everyone can learn something from this inspiring story about someone who wants to foster more kindness at CU and in the world.