Student Body Co-Presidents Adapt to Virtual Setting by Emphasizing Community

Student body Co-Presidents Megan Cui ’21 and Salvador Gómez-Colón ’21 have focused on rebuilding and reconnecting the Andover community as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt this school year.

According to Gómez-Colón, the co-presidents have set aside original plans, such as implementing a digital sign-in policy, for less concrete initiatives centered around community building. Cui maintains, however, that the co-presidents’ principal goals have not changed.

“We gave [the students] our trust that we will respect their voice and respect what they have to say and bring their visions to fruition. I think in some ways this year, we managed to do at least part of it. A lot of the students want to be on-campus and live this normal life, but it’s hard to let that [happen] when the rest of the world is not fully recovered. So what we are having to do is to bridge that gap between the student body’s vision with our vision,” said Cui. 

For the co-presidents, the beginning of Fall Term was a low point in their tenure. Both were off-campus and recognized that the student body was fragmented. Nevertheless, as they adapted to lead the school from their homes, Cui and Gómez-Colón learned that leadership is not only about commitment but flexibility. 

“When this external environment change hit us, and I think that was, at first, daunting, but I’m glad to say that we have come to terms with that, and we have been doing our best and really trying to make the most out of the moment. I think honesty is important, especially as student leaders and as students during these times. I think we definitely faced disappointment at first, but we have gratefully passed through it,” said Gómez-Colón.

Much of Cui and Gómez-Colón’s focus throughout their tenure has been on mental health. In collaboration with the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center, deans, and class representatives, the Co-Presidents have been trying to shift beyond the mental-health stigma and change the narrative of emotional well-being.

Inspired by the co-presidential platform of Peter Ling ’20 and Ianna Ramdhany ’20, the pair is currently pursuing the Peer Listeners program, in which students offer support to those facing emotional distress. With the Peer Listener Program, Cui and Gómez-Colón hope to ensure that students can share about mental health in a comfortable setting. 

“The idea is that we can help destigmatize conversations about emotional well-being, but also for students who don’t necessarily feel that their condition warrants going to a Sykes counselor and engaging with those resources, they can do so in a way that isn’t as serious but still as committed,” said Gómez-Colón.

According to Cui, separate groups on Student Council are working on a variety of initiatives, including Discipline Committee reform. Hosting events and activities on Zoom has taught the co-presidents and class representatives to be observant and mindful of students’ mental capacity. 

“It’s the small things that matter: what their class really cares about or what our students care about. So for example, we’d hold a class meeting, a class Kahoot, a class A/E event every once in a while to get some class spirit going on. But when we get the sense that everyone is very overwhelmed with work, we want the class to get the time to themselves, take care of each other, to take care of their own mind and their own body,” said Cui.

To carry out the last of their leadership roles with the Class of 2021, Cui and Gómez-Colón are returning to campus in February. They have worked closely with the Senior class representatives and Anny Candelario Escobar, Dean of the Class of 2021, to plan events and activities, some of which remain secret. 

“Definitely, there are things for Seniors planned. There will be good stuff for Seniors planned, and hopefully we can make the most out of this little five weeks we’re going to have,” said Gómez-Colón.

With the co-presidential race for the 2021-2022 school year approaching, Cui and Gómez-Colón emphasized unity, kindness, and empathy for potential candidates. Reflecting on the progression of their own relationship, from running mates to good friends, Cui also noted the importance of developing trust. 

“Learn to have faith in yourself, and have faith in each other, and really just enjoy the process. You know, co-president, it is a huge deal. There’s a lot of responsibilities, especially during a year like this. But you really have to love it and to learn from your mistakes or the parts that you feel you could do better, and just have fun with it,” said Cui. 

Gómez-Colón added, “I think that really keeping your values and knowing how to act on them in ways that you hadn’t necessarily planned is the most important thing that I foresee will be part of this co-presidential race.”