Growing up, my parents sent my sister and I to a small Catholic elementary school called Mount St. Mary’s. I pretty much had the same classmates from 1st to 8th grade. What they didn’t realize they were doing by sending me to MSM was that I would experience the magic of forming life long friends. When high school arrived, majority of them went to the a different high school and myself and one other classmate went to the other local high school. As I moved through high school, I yearn to experience that close-knit group feeling. It wasn’t until I went to college and joined the Associated Students Productions Programming board and living on campus that I would meet a group of people who would then become life long friends.
I tell this story because it hit me today, as I looked out on to the college soccer fields, that it was just last May, I lead a group of student leaders who formed a bond that will forever give them life-long friends. It was on the same soccer field that Jose Mayen (AS VP) and Doris Vargas (PTK VP) started a tradition of Student Government vs Phi Theta Kappa Honors “end of the year” soccer game. I was looking out onto the soccer fields because a week ago, we lost Jose to a car accident. In my 12 years of advising student leaders, he was the first student leader I ever lost. His leadership, he willingness to include everyone, and his ability to be there for his team made last year’s student government team bond so well, they all became life long friends. As they all learned about Jose’s passing, it hit me how much they had grown to appreciate each other. Something that comes not too often. It makes me really proud that I was part of it.
Student life departments, student leadership programs, student engagement practices in the classroom; they all offer students the opportunity to bond with other students. They get to experience what is feels like to be part of a team either from experiencing an overnight leadership retreat together, weekend conference or simply meeting every week. And maybe, if the timing is right and so is that advisor or teacher, the students will form friendships that will last a lifetime.
In the field of student affairs, you have to ask yourself, do you have the magic, the energy, the desire, to build student teams? Do you know the tools? It can be learned. It for sure comes with practice. And boy, I pray you get to experience it some day. And I pray you also have a student like Jose.
Below is a picture of 2011-2012 ASCC board at their Spring Leadership Retreat. Jose is in the back row, 3rd person from the left.