When the 2020-21 College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Student Government Association (SGA) officers ran for office in the college’s first virtual election campaign during those first frightening weeks of the global pandemic last spring, they knew they were entering all new territory. A year later, the elected leaders look back with pride at their work to help fellow CSM students during the COVID-19 emergency, and their work to keep students connected – and heard – during extraordinary moments in history.
A cross-section of SGA leaders recently met with the CSM Board of Trustees to review their outreach and their investment in CSM’s students – efforts that ranged from hosting virtual fall festivals and game nights to providing students with food, calculators and tuition assistance. CSM’s SGA also partnered with CSM’s Student Life team, its Division of Academic Affairs and Office of Equity and Inclusive Diversity to sponsor a voter education series that explored the History of Voting Rights, National Voter Registration Day, Bridging Political Divides and offered a post-election debrief.
“We knew when we were elected we would need to work hard at increasing college unity and our connections to each other,” explained Prince Frederick Campus SGA President George Southworth IV, about leading during a pandemic that prevented in-person events. “One of our goals was to create student leadership opportunities and involvement in the Southern Maryland community by organizing and promoting participation in outreach or volunteer service programs for students.”
But as the stay home order moved from days to weeks and news of extended months of remote learning spread, the student leaders took a harder look at their fellow students’ needs and decided to approach ‘college unity’ in more unconventional, but necessary ways.
To accomplish this, the La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick campuses’ SGA officers met as one and voted to parcel out their budget to fund students directly, along with providing online events. By June 2020, they joined CSM faculty and staff who had been conducting student need surveys and went into action to fund scholarships, food distribution efforts and equipment needs.
“Everyone had to adapt to so many changes,” said La Plata Campus Secretary Reanna Robinson. “This last year has been hard for everyone to abruptly have a completely different life than we planned. A lot of the problems our students were facing were financial. Virtual learning can be a struggle for some. We knew if we could help the students, they wouldn’t feel so alone, left out or isolated.
“Once [SGA] started talking about helping our students, there was a level of excitement and brainstorming and urgency to see what we could do to help everyone,” Robinson added.
All-in-all, the student officers gave more than $80,000 of their student activities’ budget to the Students Helping Students fund, the Student Emergency Fund and the Help-a-Hawk fund – that has distributed 10,255 pounds of food to needy students – to date. They also purchased and distributed COVID masks, calculators and book store vouchers for students who expressed a need, and the leaders donated some of the SGA budget to CSM Foundation’s general scholarship fund.
For Robinson, the SGA efforts provided a ‘full circle moment’ for her, as she was one of the 140 working CSM students who were furloughed during the 2019 government shutdown who received help from CSM to stay in school.
“I am the oldest on the SGA team, a single mom, working full time and I bring a different perspective to many of these younger kids about the larger community college population,” she explained. “When the furlough happened in 2019 there were a lot of working men and women in my shoes and CSM helped us stay in school. So when the SGA elections came along last year, I said, ‘why not,’ and ran for office. I wanted to be in a position to help CSM students, like they helped me when I needed it.
“I hope that giving these things to other students who are struggling now helps to keep them motivated,” Robinson continued. “I am honored to pay it back and pay it forward.”
“I met with George [Southworth] every month,” Murphy told the trustees when the officers were done with their March board presentation. Referring to the SGA efforts as “phenomenal,” she and the board extended unanimous praise.
“You all have kept things going during this pandemic and your level of commitment to our students is top layer,” Murphy said. “Your enthusiasm and compassion permeated our college this year and you changed lives.”
The 2020-21 SGA officers who served the CSM students and community in the last academic year include:
La Plata Campus:
- President Kelsey Kluh
- Vice President Kia Smith
- Treasurer Sydney Mitchell
- Secretary Reanna Robinson
- Representatives Rachel Polk, Taylor Dean and Kaitlyn Culbert
- President Joan Popoola
- Vice President Kristine Williams
- Treasurer Kamille Cox
- Secretary Nicole Geiger
- Representatives Nylasia Kelly and Darnell Darden
Prince Frederick Campus
- President George Southworth IV
- Vice President Andres Walker
- Treasurer Sofia Walker
- Secretary Rhey Mesowski
- Representatives Abigail Sellner
To learn more about the varied student life opportunities at CSM including SGA, student clubs, activities and events and athletics, visit https://www.csmd.edu/student-life/.
If you are a CSM student interested in running for SGA, elections for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year virtually campaign begins April 12-23 using the CSM Mobile App and social media. Students must fill out an application found at https://www.csmd.edu/student-services/student-life/index.html to ensure eligibility requirements are met prior to campaigning. Elections take place Tuesday, April 27 – Thursday, April 29, and the election ballot link will be release on myLearning.