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The Road to Presidency

My name is Leilani Feleciano and I am the Student Body President Elect for Hawai’i Pacific University. I grew up in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, a small town in a very small state, and was never involved in student government. I was focused on school, sports, and a few clubs. I was determined to get into college early and do whatever I could to help my parents pay for my schooling. Coming from a small town, it was easy to find your niche and stay in it throughout your high school career. Being in the same town for 8 years, you really got to know the people you were in class with, which I will always cherish. You knew who was the most athletic, who was going to be the next president of the class or even the country, and who was the most musically inclined. In high school, I felt as though I didn’t really have a superlative, I was average at best. In my choice to leave home and move cross-country for college, I never thought I would become the person I am today.

Freshman year and 5,000 miles away from home, I was nervous yet excited to see what these next four years could have in store for me. Two weeks into the semester I broke my back jumping off a waterfall and was paralyzed from the waist down, confined to bed rest for two months. I reflected a lot during that time about what school meant to me and what it meant to be missing out…to be “that freshman.” When I was back on my feet again, I took full strides to catch up and immerse myself into becoming the person I wanted to be. I was eager to make a name for myself that wasn’t just, “The Girl Who Broke Her Back.” I have juggled full class loads, two to three jobs at once and extra-curricular activities. What I found this past year is that, being involved in your university is so satisfying and brings a feeling of accomplishment that I felt I never realized growing up. When I first joined the Student Government Association, I thought it would just be a fun way to pass the time and see how the university works from the inside. What I realized though, through my interactions with peers and the leadership opportunities presented to me, was that I felt so empowered as an individual to make a difference.

In running for Student Body President, I decided to take that feeling of empowerment and use it to propel myself into a greater position for change. What Student Body President means to me is a voice for my fellow classmates, a way to make myself heard and push myself to greater limits, and a way to flourish within my academic system. As a girl from a small town who never really felt like an outstanding citizen within my community or someone who could really make a change, I feel as though I have grown in ways I have never imagined. Many may say that politics is a man’s world, or even that our society still is. But my response is this: an individual’s worth and ability to bring about change is not reflective of their gender or their upbringing. As Student Body President, I plan to stand strong to enact and enforce policies that benefit ALL students, to be a voice for students to speak through, and to be a leader for more students to realize their potential in whatever role they choose.

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