Introducing Kyler Gray & Madeline Mills: Your SGA President & VP-Elect

Who knew that when Kyler Gray and Madeline Mills ran against each other for Philanthropy Chair in SGA that they would run side-by-side three years later as President and Vice President, and win?

Kyler Gray graduated top of his class from Live Oak, Florida and came to UCF to study public administration. A brother of Phi Delta Theta, and former Attorney General of SGA, he is about to serve as UCF SGA’s 2019–2020 President. By his side is Madeline Mills, who is studying political science and has a passion for being eco-friendly. Proud to be a sister of Pi Beta Phi, she started the Garden Club here at UCF and is so excited to bring Lime Scooters to campus. 

When the interview starts, both Kyler and Madeline are quick to tell me that they more consider themselves as co-presidents rather than their official titles. These two are so personable as they open up about who they are, the changes that they want to make and when they loved identifying themselves as UCF Knights. 

Q: Tell me about the campaign slogan you ran on, “Ignite Our Future.”

Kyler: Ignite our future stresses individual student empowerment, enabling students to discover their opportunities. We’re not everyone else. It was easy for us because we knew how to get involved. We wanted to get involved. Some people either want to get involved, and they don’t have the means to get involved, or they honestly don’t even know where to start. So they’re a transfer student, small fish in a big pond. And so, igniting our future is about enabling students to discover their opportunities and give them the opportunities to tell their story while also creating one simultaneously. 

Q: So how would you advise someone to go about igniting their own future? 

Madeline: There should be a search for curiosity, and I think that Kyler and I have done that throughout our time here. You have to continually want to know everything that there is to know and to meet people with different backgrounds. I’m political science, he’s public administration. I don’t understand engineering. But I hope to understand how can we support our engineers so that they get to go to the conferences that will go and propel the university forward. I think for my position, I am working really closely with students and organizations. So I think it’s reaching out to them and making them know there are so many services that are offered to you and that you can take advantage of that, and I want to help you take advantage of that. From another side, instead of going, “What do we already have that we are cultivating that we can go ahead and expand into a greater force?” I just think it’s continually revamping and growing and altering programs and services so that it’s applicable to all people. 

Q: You two seem very proud of the fact that you ran on a grassroots campaign. How is that going to carry over into how you lead UCF this coming year?

Kyler: We want to be, when it comes to the student body and the roles that we serve, we want to be the people’s president, we want to be the people’s vice president. We want to do the little stuff. We plan to use the SGA golf cart to take people to class once a week. We plan on walking around, asking people, “Hey, do you want to go get lunch?” and buying their lunch. We want to be doing stuff like that, engaging in normal conversation. When we ran a grassroots campaign, it’s because we’re grassroots people. I come from the middle of nowhere. Live Oak, between Gainesville and Tallahassee in the sticks. One thing that growing up in a small town taught me is the fact that after everything in this world, the most important thing you can do is build relationships with people. And that’s what we want to do. We want to build relationships with the students that put us here and let them know that they have someone here that 24/7, we’re going to be advocating for what they want, what they need. It’s about putting the students first. That’s the one thing that UCF does great. It’s that they care about the student perspective. But ensuring that everything we do is not for someone’s personal agenda, or anything like that. It’s for the students, and it’s in order to help students fulfill their possibilities. 

Q: The points that you’ve made on your campaign platform are fairly extensive. What would you say is the most important issue to you, why, and how do you plan on remedying it?

Madeline: I want the Female Empowerment Conference. Growing up, I didn’t really know what my potential was, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I think that a lot of the times, you almost feel limited not to even enter some of the fields because you know that its male-dominated and that you might not find a job, or that you’re not going to be respected in a conference room. I think that that’s stupid. To be completely honest, I think that when women have every opportunity to be successful, and it will just depend on if you have the drive to get there. There should be ways for you to get there without you having to jump over impossible obstacles. There are scholarships that people don’t know about, programs, services. There are people to meet with, there are communities to join. Yes, I want those all to be made clear at the event, but I also want it to be an event that we make sure that you leave, and believe in your abilities. Honestly, I’m hoping to bring some special guest speakers. That’s what I’ve told Kyler, and that is the number one thing I want to plan and work with my directors to do because it speaks to such a variety of people. I hope that guys go as well, because I think that they need to know how you treat women, how do you show them respect. Some of that has been lost in our culture, and we all ought to be aware of how we treat each other.

Q: You two have the intention of trying to create positive experiences similar to the ones that you guys have had. Can you tell me about your favorite UCF memory?

Kyler: I can. When we beat Auburn. I was in Atlanta. When Madeline and I got here our freshman year, there was a whole new athletic department, and the president of our institution for twenty-six years was leaving. So, when we took the plunge and we spent the money, we were like, “We got to go. We’re undefeated. We might...” I was like, “Well, there’s no way we’ll beat Auburn, but I’ll go.” We get there, and we beat Auburn, and I’m like, “Oh my god. I am proud of the fact that I came to UCF. Proud.” And that moment for a lot of students on this campus helped solidify the fact that we came here. I mean, we out-showed their fan base, everything. Look at what we’ve done in the past three years, not just in athletics. In academia as well. That moment not only made me proud of the fact that I attended here, but got me fired up. It made me want to do more. I was like, “If we’re able to conquer these defeats zero-twelve from two seasons before to now going undefeated and beating the team that beat the national champion, our possibilities are endless. 

Madeline: There are many moments. We were driving up, and we get to the game, and we honestly didn’t know how many people were going to go. It’s a drive, it’s expensive. People were staying at AirBNBs, people were staying with family members, and people weren’t flying into Atlanta, Georgia. We were driving, and caravanning, from Orlando. I got tickets in the upper bowl, used all the money in my bank account probably, and safe at the time, and we’re sitting up there, and all my girlfriends know nothing about football. They were all watching the game like, “Oh, there’s no shot we’ll win.” I was like, “I don’t know. I have a feeling. I believe that we could possibly pull it off.” The whole game, I was on the edge of my seat, and when I got the most chills was watching the student section below. All of a sudden, this one light goes up, and the entire half of the stadium fills with these lights, and it was just this igniting feeling of all of us charging toward this finish line. The entire half of the bowl started jumping and screaming and cheering and saying our anthem. And we’re sometimes behind in the game. Sometimes we weren’t doing that great, and it didn’t matter. We were so supportive of the fact that we’re a united school. We were going to stand together, win, lose, whatever that end score was. That feeling of, “I’m a UCF Knight.” You felt so proud of the university. Again, athletics is a clear indicator that, “Hey, this is what we’re doing on campus”. It’s what usually gets publicized, that’s just very common. But if you look at it, it was almost a culmination of finally getting UCF the recognition that they deserve. We were never the national champs. The marketing strategy was to get us a seat at the table, to say that we are going to go and be competitive, and we are going to out beat people, and knowing that we believe in each other, and showing together and standing together in the issues that we have. Like, there was a girl who is UCF alumni on Jeopardy, and the whole school was hyped about it! And you watch students in computer science competitions who are getting first place against Harvard and Yale. We are such an innovative university, and I just wish that the whole world knew that. You know, I wanted to go to UF. I wanted to be a gator. I wanted to be in the swamp. I wanted to have a sense of tradition and pride and I came here at the last minute, and I showed up and I was like, “I don’t even know what UCF’s things are.” And now, to be a Knight has a whole other meaning to it, and I think it’s because the students that are in the university now, the alumni that we are building, are so proud in what the university has given them. I’m so excited to see the future and what we’re going to do.

As the interview wraps up, there is a bittersweet feeling walking out of their soon-to-be office. Sweet because sitting with them was like sitting down with a close, caring friend, bitter because the time together is over. However, to cope with that feeling, I left knowing that the door to the SGA office is always open to me, and to any other UCF student that has something to say. Kyler and Madeline were officially inaugurated on April 16, and I can't wait to see what their tenure brings.

Images provided by Kyler Gray and Madeline Mills