By Mark Kessel / Staff Writer
Ending world hunger is a dream easy to write off as naïve, calling to mind empty, uninspired beauty queens babbling platitudes. But when DeAnna Nicholson says it, not only can you see she earnestly believes in it, but you also begin to believe she will actually do it.
“When I was 10,” Nicholson recalls, “my mom and I flew to Tijuana, Mexico, working on the border with orphans and refugees building houses.” The experience changed her life, and now, working towards a degree in International Relations, she hopes to become a leader to help elevate the standard of living all around the world, believing “It’s all about connecting people to resources in a tangible, meaningful, sustainable way.”
So when Nicholson was elected as the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Vice President of Information and Media, she saw it as an opportunity to help connect people with the opportunities the school offers, with the hope of promoting involvement and communication between the school and the students.
“There’s not a lot of awareness about what’s being offered here,” she said. “We had a hundred thousand dollars unclaimed in scholarships just this year. There are so many activities and programs that can be helpful to people. That’s why I got involved, to bring people in and to get people excited about community college.”
The lack of awareness is related to the lack of personal communication from the school, she believes. “You can’t even count the amount of e-mails that you get in a week, much less the meaningful ones. There’s so much generic ‘you should get involved in this,’ and ‘you should get involved in this’, that important things are getting lost.”
Her mission, therefore, is to bring the personality back into the dialogue, and as the Vice President of Information and Media, she is in a unique position to help deliver on that promise. Nicholson is in charge of all the social media presence for the school, on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and has, with her SGA colleagues, created a hashtag of “#RVoice” –as in “our voice”—which she hopes will keep the dialogue going.
But it’s not enough simply to tell students to get involved: “Representing organizations and clubs need to get out there and show why people should get involved.”
Nicholson recalls one year ago at the New Student BBQ, which was her first day on campus, “Barbara (Cannell), the president at the time, was dressed in a beautiful ridiculous costume dancing on the front of the stage. She saw me and just took me by the hand and started dancing with me. I instantly felt so connected and a part of things.
“I remember thinking, these are the kinds of people I want to surround myself with. People working together and the passion they had about getting involved was truly inspiring.”
As somebody homeschooled for much of her life, Nicholson knows well how one’s sense of belonging can enrich one’s education. When she was younger, she had fewer opportunities for socialization as her peers had, so putting herself out there and trying new things was crucial in her development. “My parents always pushed me to get involved in different things. I loved getting out there to try all the things I came to love.”
Eventually she entered high school, where she completed four years of classes in two. “I was worried about going to high school as a young, scared fifteen year old girl”, Nicholson confessed. “Being thrown into a place where all of a sudden I had this big array of opportunities available to me was amazing.”
She began the strides towards leadership there, where she was on the school’s Chorus Council and helped run both the Women’s and Men’s Ensembles.
Meeting so many people after a reclusive beginning would daunt some, but Nicholson found it enlightening, taking the lessons with her as she left high school and entered adulthood. “You find as you go through life that everyone has really good strengths and skills and things they’re really good at. Sometimes people just need to know where and how to apply themselves.”
Now she finds herself on RVCC’s SGA, trying to make a difference and getting students involved in campus activities, an admittedly difficult mission. Last year, only 8% of students attended Club Recruitment Day, and of those only around 3-6% stay actively involved in a club or activity. “I’m forever going to be the optimist”, she shrugs. She hopes to make these numbers more positive.
And when you listen to her speak, you know she will. Everything about DeAnna Nicholson is positivity and ambition. You believe she can do anything she sets her substantial mind to, and has nothing but love for RVCC. “From the second I walk onto campus, I feel better about life. Just being around all these inspired people,” she beams.
So look for RVCC’s social media presence to receive a personality make-over. Look for the hash-tag, #RVoice. Look to student leaders like DeAnna and consider getting involved. “The only person you can really control in life is you,” she says. “I think everything around us is a tool. You can make great things happen from the simplest of tools.
“In the end, it’s up to you and how you decide to spend your time.”
The previous article in this series was on Imran Vahora.