Firsthand account: Being involved on/off campus can change your life

The+NIU+Huskie+Pride+Statue+and+Holmes+Student+Center+are+recognizable+landmarks+to+help+new+students+find+their+way+around+campus.

Northern Star File Photo

The NIU Huskie Pride Statue and Holmes Student Center are recognizable landmarks to help new students find their way around campus.

Janyce-Monique Johnson, Columnist

Getting involved on campus has changed my life by giving me enriching experiences, valuable skills and the ability to overcome obstacles.

I started my university experience at The University of Texas at El Paso, and my first semester there was very lonely. I had just moved from Georgia to Texas, so my number of friends was limited off campus and nonexistent on campus. So, when spring semester began, I decided to join a student organization called the Student Alumni Association. I went to the first meeting, and I immediately felt like it was a great fit for me.

SAA at UTEP had an election soon after I joined, and I wanted to run for a position on the executive board, but I didn’t sign up because I didn’t think anyone would vote for me. I expressed this desire of mine to the vice president of the organization, and he told some of the other officers. When election day came, I sat there fully committed to not running for a position, but the president and treasurer nominated me for the position of vice president of external affairs.

It was completely unexpected, and I remember coming up with a two-minute speech without any preparation. Two other people ran against me, and all three of us went into a separate room while members voted, and votes were counted. When we came back out, they announced that I had won the position, and I was both surprised and excited. My position in SAA made me more responsible and improved my public speaking skills.

The following year, I ran for president of the organization, and I won. SAA instilled confidence within me, and it opened many future opportunities.

I wanted to get more involved, so I applied for an internship at Make-A-Wish. I got the internship and was titled the Medical Intake Coordinator intern, where I assisted my boss with the verification process for wish children. I loved the feeling of helping so many terminally ill children get a wish that could possibly change the outcome of their condition.

After my internship with Make-A-Wish ended, I decided to intern for the Sun Bowl Association. I originally applied for a paid internship, but during the interview, I found out that I was underqualified. He instead offered me an unpaid internship, which I accepted. I got to create social media graphics, cover Facebook and Instagram stories during games, and I even got to go on the field and sit in the press box of the 2018 Sun Bowl game where Stanford played against Pittsburgh. I kept thinking to myself: How does someone who doesn’t even watch sports end up as an intern for a sports association? Simple answer: I just said yes, and it turned out to be an amazing experience.

I did various other activities on UTEP’s campus, such as being a teacher’s aid for an entry-level course and being an ambassador for a program aimed at informing students of great opportunities to be involved, which is probably why I’m writing this column.

When I transferred to NIU, I had the worst timing. The pandemic was brewing, so all my plans to be involved were halted until last semester: Spring 2021.

Spring semester, I decided to go through sorority recruitment. I had no idea what to expect or if I would get a bid from any of the houses, but I did. I got a bid from Delta Zeta sorority, and I accepted. Months later, I am still in this sorority that I love. I have made amazing friends, and I see myself becoming more of the person I want to be.

Whether you join Greek life, get an internship, or run for an organization’s executive board, getting involved on or off campus is an amazing experience. You will be a part of something that will ultimately shape you into the person you want to be.