When students enter college, they begin a transition stage of their lives. They’re leaving what is old and familiar and waddling into a world full of uncertainty and possibility. This transition is amplified here at NYU because our campus has no boundaries. We live and breathe New York City, and we are exposed to opportunities we might not encounter elsewhere. During my freshman year, I joined student leadership by becoming the president of Rubin Hall, a first year residence hall on campus. My reason for doing this was twofold — I wanted to make friends, and I wanted to make a change on campus. I understand that not everyone has the time and energy to take on a leadership position, but that does not mean that everyone should not have a voice. And the best way for everyone to have a voice is to bridge the gap between student government and the student body.
This experience has brought me to the topic on my mind today: student leadership conference. Torch Day is an annual one-day conference held for all the student leaders in residential life and is organized by the Inter-Residence Hall Council. Torch Day is a wonderful experience full of spirit where members of different hall councils come together to cheer and learn about their responsibilities. To this date, I have attended two Torch Days, and I will carry with me the lessons I learned throughout the rest of my life.
A large part of student leadership conferences such as Torch Day are seminars focusing on difficult socially relevant ideas, such as “So You Call Yourself an Ally: 5 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know,” “Managing Conflict and Managing/Receiving Positive Feedback Realness” and “Consent Training.” As a student leader, or really as a student, you are bound to run into someone who does not share the same views and beliefs as you. Torch Day teaches students how to navigate these situations with ease, allowing both parties to walk away from the situation without being harmed in any way. It also brings together students of all ages, nationalities, ethnicities, races and sexual orientations, and that learning experience in itself is unique and remarkable. With our current social and political climate, it is relatively easy for a small miscommunication to flare up into a full scale argument, and I believe that we should avoid such occurrences at all costs. If everyone in this university had the chance to attend just one of these seminars, imagine what a difference it would make.
When students are in college, we all seem to believe that we are adults of some sort, but I sometimes wonder if we really have all the tools we need to survive and make a mark in the working world. When I first walked into NYU, I was definitely the picture of a clueless freshman, but now, a few years and many leadership conferences later, I feel like I have the tools in my arsenal to be successful at what I do. I feel confident, and that confidence stems from the hundreds of cheers and snaps of enthusiasm that resonate around me every Torch Day.
When I graduate from NYU, I want to look back at the lessons and memories I experienced at Torch Day, and more than that, I want to remind this university that the initiatives they take to teach students matter. I want to remind the university that if the gap between the student body and student government is slowly bridged, every student will benefit. Since coming to college, I’ve become more knowledgeable about social justice, learned to be better at my job and evolved into a better, more refined version of myself. That is what Torch Day has given me.
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