How I Got Here: The Soap Dispenser (5/10)

When I got to Abilene Christian University I knew about 5 people.  I felt like a little fish in a big pond.  I looked around and I saw others who were part of a large church group, a parochial high school or people who had siblings who already went there.  I’m not sure why this bothered me or why I wanted to be well known on campus, but I did.  I ran for freshman class president and didn’t win that.  I ran for Representative for my Dorm and got that.  I think it was the first year or so that they had dorm reps.

For some reason our dorm didn’t have soap dispensers in the bathrooms.  I mean, that’s objectively gross.  Sure, you could bring your soap from whenever you showered to the bathroom, but who would even?  The president asked me to accompany the two dorm reps from the women’s dorm that I went to all the time to a meeting with the sanitation services manager.  I showed up late and really just sat there while these two amazing women worked out a deal with the manager to get soap dispensers in all the dorms that didn’t have them already and to check them regularly.  We went back and reported to the President of the student body and he asked us to give a report at the meeting the next day.

Since I didn’t do anything during the meeting, I made a powerpoint.  I had taken Business Computer Information Systems in high school so I knew how to do it.  The high point of the powerpoint that I had made was that I had a car go across the screen as if it was driving.  Everyone ate it up.

via GIPHY

Looking back on it, taking that presentation and making it all fancy was the highlight of my freshman government experience.  Which is lame because what I did was waaaaayyyyy off topic and not even wanted or needed.  After I got done galavanting around, one of the women actually gave the report that was asked for.  But everyone thought I was hot stuff for my lame powerpoint.  I got asked to do other powerpoints and go to other things, like when a group of faculty people were deciding on whether or not we should get Good Friday off; again, I didn’t do a dadgum thing in that meeting but make a crappy powerpoint.

My freshman year I basically did everything that was available to do on campus except chess club, because it was too complicated.  I’m sorry, but whatever move the knight makes is really stupid and silly.  No time for it.  When elections came around I ran for sophomore class office and won.

My sophomore year this administrator person came to one of our student congress meetings to talk about a thing called “Block Tuition” which basically means you pay a set amount for your school as a full time student when you take anywhere between and including 12-18 hours.  So if you took 16 or more hours then you would get more value but if you took 12 hours you would get less value.  During the next meeting we were supposed to talk about it and make a decision about what we wanted to do, if anything.  One of my friends on the congress got me turnt up to make a response and I did by calling the notion of block tuition “Ethnic Cleansing” which defacto made me liken the Administrator Person to a Yugoslavian war criminal (later on I met him and it was really awkward).  Honestly, I’ve made better decisions.  We passed a resolution saying that we didn’t like block tuition and that we were against it.  The Faculty and administrators decided not to go through with it for a while and we felt victorious.  That year I was voted co-congress member of the year even though I didn’t really do anything AND I wasn’t even there to get my award because I was coaching a GATA softball game.

My Junior Year was when 9/11 happened.  Someone brought up whether we should give money to the American Red Cross and their relief efforts.  We debated the issue for about and hour and then someone suggested that we ask our constituents.  So the next week I got a big sign made of butcher paper and asked people to say “yes” or “no” about whether they wanted us to send the money from the Student Congress Operating Budget (that the students submit money to) to the red cross.  People thought that this idea was impressive and revolutionary, as if I had really done something.

I spent all that time wondering what student body office I was going to run for.  I knew what I wanted; I wanted to be student body vice president.  It was going to be awesome.  I got advice, asked people about what to do and gave it a lot of thought.  I met with a person who I trusted and she said that I should not run for this, indicating that it wasn’t me.  My special talent and thing that I could do was get people excited and this was not a job where I could rally interest and get people excited.  I thanked her for her advice and went on to run.  I ran unopposed, getting 450 signatures from students (the amount required to run for student body office) in 29 hours and then running unopposed for the office itself.

Looking back on it, she was right.  I should not have run for that office.  This is my Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist History moment.

On the one hand, I really enjoyed my position.  I enjoyed being the person that people looked up to on campus, I enjoyed working with the Student Body president to set the tone and bring forth a new idea of what student government should be, and I really enjoyed smelling the hair of all the women on campus that were involved in the student government.  I’m not really sure why this was a thing, but It was a thing that I did.  Often. I don’t even know how to explain it to you.

via GIPHY

On the other hand, I was really confused about I should do in my role there.  The Vice president had a traditional role of being in charge of all the committees and steering them on the right path.  I had no committee experience and really didn’t know what I was doing.  I wasn’t able to help them much.  One of the committees that we oversaw was the Campus Entertainment committee whose jobs were, among other things, planning a large concert for the whole campus.  I was really unable to help the head of that committee in getting a concert of any real kind on campus.  I also oversaw the elections and allowed a rather large scandal to brew with regards to how the candidates treated each other and talked to each other during the race and the runoff.

When you’re at the top, everyone is looking at you expecting you to have a clue of what to do and what to tell them about what to do.  You can’t just stay in the shadows, mind your business and work.  In many ways I feel like that is the better position for me.  I had a good time there but the truth was that it wasn’t what I thought it would be and if I had it to do all over again I would have ran for something else.

I finally came out and told the whole student congress that the idea for the soap dispensers belonged to the two awesome women that I knew an that I just went along.  It was at a time when I had already got all of the credit and awards that I was going to get.  But I wanted to do right by them as best as I could.

How I Got Here: The Bell Tower (4/10)

I went to undergrad at a place called Abilene Christian University.  It’s a relatively small, parochial division 1 university.  About Five thousand or so students went there in 1999.  I made the decision to go to school there very late in the process and without visiting the campus.  I knew about six people who went to school there when I started.  I’m pretty sure that I looked lost and in shock because I ended up getting a ton of help from beautiful women on campus during welcome week and into the first few weeks of the school year.  What I noticed a few weeks in was that all the women who were helping me were wearing the same type of clothes:

But that thumbs up, tho...

Yeah, okay. So we’re not going to talk about that goatee. Or the necklace. Or the pencil in the side of my visor. Just gonna leave all that alone…

After a couple of weeks I figured out that they were all part of the same social club (ACU doesn’t have nationally recognized fraternities or sororities).  I sought to learn more about this amazing group of women and their pledges.

Several weeks later was homecoming.  Most of the active students or members of a social club worked on their floats.  Pledges got ready for homecoming breakfast.  But there was also this weird tradition called “The Ringing of the Bell:”  there used to be a bell tower on campus that the freshmen would ring from 11:30 on Friday (after friday chapel) to about 2pm Saturday.  The pledges of the men’s clubs would come throughout the night and attempt to stop the bell from ringing.  It got rowdy under there; I’m not saying that this was a wise decision that we were making.  You could even pull your curfew card and say that you were going to defend the bell that night.  Also, we had curfew.  I mean, it’s kind of a weird tradition to explain, but basically imagine a lot of young people pushing and shoving each other to get control of a rope tied to a bell and bell tower.

 

via GIPHY

I went to the bell tower and defended it the night of homecoming.  The next morning I was part of the homecoming parade as part of SHADES, a non-greek step group on campus.  After we finished, I took a nap on a park bench.  The bell was still ringing.  After homecoming chapel the bell stopped (somewhere around 11:30).  I ran over to check on it and the people who were ringing it just stopped, claiming that their families were on campus and they wanted to go see them.  With no one else around I climbed in the makeshift fort of pallets and rang the bell alone.  For two hours.

I’m not going to lie, it was a long two hours.  Some other freshmen came and gave me water while I rang.  Some people took a pic of themselves acting as if they were ringing the bell while I kept it ringing it out of the view of the picture.  At about 1:15 PM or so I started thinking to myself, “you know what?  this might just work out!”  It did not work out.

A group of men’s social club members ran toward me from the nearby fountain.  It took me a couple of seconds to notice that they were running right for me.  The funny thing about ringing a bell tower for several hours alone is that everyone can see that you’re alone.  The bell tower was sacked and the rope that tied to the bell was tied around the top of the tower about 20 feet up.

Once it was over the members of the social club introduced themselves to me and commended me on a job well done.  They said that they had been keeping their eye on me for a couple of hours.  They kept in contact with me over the rest of the semester.  I saw their Sing Song (explaining Sing Song would need its own post) act and admired their originality I did more research into the situation and I found out that the Men’s Club, Frater Sodalis, and the Women’s club that had all the women that I admired and respected, GATA, were brother and sister club, It was a done deal.

I parked cars at the GATA formal my freshman year (even though I didn’t have a license).  I served water at the Frater Sodalis formal my freshman year as well.  I pledged Frater Sodalis in the fall of my sophomore year and made lifelong friends, served in several weddings and played more flag football in an uncoordinated manner than I could think of.

via GIPHY (in the above video I was one of the people who ended up on the ground)

I also coached the GATA football and baseball teams and wrote them letters on their birthday.  It was one of the most satisfying and rewarding things that I did while I was at ACU.

To me Frats was the natural choice.  There were plenty of men’s clubs on campus but that group was the one where I felt the most at home.  I had friends who joined other clubs and remained great friends with them but I was very close with these men.

It’s weird to think about of the little weird stories that I have that shaped the course of my life the way that they did. I don’t know if it’s like that for anyone else, but it feels like the smallest thing changed my life in a big way like a weird school tradition or a summons in the mail.  Maybe it was a willingness to look at these things and say yes to them, like the time I said yes to chute dogging in the school rodeo.  But that’s another story.

This did not end well in case you want to know. How could have it ended well?

This did not end well in case you want to know. How could have it ended well?

How I Got Here: The Envelope (3/10)

I spent about half of my high school being relatively unconcerned with what was going to happen after.  I was in upper-level classes but I hadn’t put much thought and planning into it.  I knew I was going to go to college somewhere but I wasn’t sure where.  I guess I figured it was going to work out somehow.

My mom, dad and brother all went to Grambling State University, a historically black university.  I guess the idea was for me to go too.  Maybe I would have been a Kappa like my father.  Or maybe I would have done my own thing and ended up playing in the band.

via GIPHY

But no one ever told me that I had to go to Grambling.  It wasn’t expected of me so I didn’t go.

I remember going to college night at my high school.  I went to all of the little tables picking up free pens and brochures, not knowing a clue about what any of it meant.  Between that and the PSAT that I took, I got mail for weeks.  It was the most important I had ever felt.  I remember walking past the Abilene Christian University table and someone said that all you had to do to get in there was score a 950 or so on the SAT (this was a long time ago).  I figured that I could probably make that, I had a friend that I had done a math project was going there and one of the trumpet players in our band had a sticker of ACU on her trumpet case so I picked up an application.  Literally that was the only connection to the school that I had.  No one from my church graduated from there, no one I knew in the real world went there, I had never visited there, NOTHING.  I sent my application in as along with applications to Texas A&M and University of North Texas and I went on with my life.

I got waitlisted to A&M because I wasn’t in the top ten percent of my graduating class.  I got accepted to UNT and ACU.

It should be noted that back then, ACU was not cheap.  I think it was somewhere between $15-20k/year.  That was a lot and more than we had.  I got a scholarship from ACU but it wasn’t enough.  I made the decision to go to UNT in around May or so.

Over the summer I got calls from ACU.  Lots of calls.  Like, lots of calls.

via GIPHY

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I had already picked out another school so they kept calling.  They seemed nice and I liked the attention.  One day in about mid-June I got a call saying that some new scholarships had just been approved and they wanted to see if I could get one.  ACU mailed me the form and I filled it out and sent it back in, not thinking too much of it.  I mean, whatevs, right?  The school was too expensive anyway.  I got my stuff ready to go visit UNT for orientation and went with a friend.  I had my classes set up, my dorm set up and even a date for the first weekend.

When I got back I checked the mail and saw a letter from ACU.  They had gotten my application for the new scholarship program.  They had approved my membership in a group called LYNAY which was a part of The Center for Building Community. All of the money was handled.  All of it.

via GIPHY

My mom and I read the letter, then we looked at each other, then we read the letter again.  Both of us were “like, what?”  Turns out that the community service hours that I was doing as part of teen court came into play for this scholarship.  So while I was ringing up other kids for community service hours I was also getting community service hours, which sounds ironic.  Maybe.

At the same time we were mystified because we had barely even HEARD of this place.  We didn’t know a thing about it, including where it was or what people did there.  But we knew that something was going on.  People look their whole lives for a sign that they are on the right track.  We were pretty sure that we had one.  We had to look up how to get there and PRINT PAPER COPIES of the directions to the school because we had never been there before.

I had no earthly idea about what the place was.  I was super confused and scared.  I had no idea about what was going to happen there.  I didn’t know that there was chapel or what the songs were or that EVERYONE AT THE SCHOOL HAD PERFECT PITCH.  But I felt like I was supposed to be there for some reason and that I had a clear sign of it.  Looking back on it, it was the best decision that I have ever made.

This is not the last story about this place, because it only gets rowdier from there.

#ITooAmHarvard

The #ITooAmHarvard photo project is amazing.  Real Harvard students that are saying what being black means to them and the struggles that they face while going to Harvard.  They can say it better than I can, and this is a real thing that is going to happen tomorrow if you can make it:

A photo campaign highlighting the faces and voices of black students at Harvard College. Our voices often go unheard on this campus, our experiences are devalued, our presence is questioned– this project is our way of speaking back, of claiming this campus, of standing up to say: We are here. This place is ours. We, TOO, are Harvard. The #itooamharvard photo campaign is inspired by I, Too, Am Harvard, a play based on interviews with members of the black community exploring and affirming our diverse experiences as black students at Harvard College. The original play premieres on Friday March 7th, 2014 at 7 PM in Lowell Lecture Hall on the campus of Harvard College. facebook.com/itooamharvard @iTooAmHarvard #itooamharvard 179231

I grabbed several pics that describe certain things that I was asked at ACU.  The last two are what I would have done if I was asked.