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‘We’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s’: SGA president, vice president reflect on term

| Friday, May 21, 2021

At the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, Student Government Association (SGA) president Giavanna Paradiso and vice president Kelsey O’Connor reflected on leading the College through a pandemic-riddled year. About two week after their election, in-person classes were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As student body president and vice president, Paradiso and O’Connor faced a plethora of new challenges this year. From a global pandemic, to a tense political climate filled with protests of racial injustice, to a modified semester with no breaks and restrictions on social gatherings, they said they faced obstacles when trying to plan more traditional programming and events. The summer involved constant communication via FaceTime calls to plan out the year, O’Connor said.

“Over the summer we FaceTimed every day — not just once a day but multiple times a day. I mean, we still talk every day, but not to that extent,” O’Connor said.

Despite her initial disappointment when the campus was shut down last spring, Paradiso said this news actually gave her and O’Connor an opportunity to prepare.

“In a way, at the time I was like ‘This is terrible,’ but I actually feel like it gave us time to prepare that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, and the capacity to meet with more people on campus than we probably would have,” Paradiso said.

Even with the limitations on capacity, event planning, food and social gatherings due to COVID-19, Paradiso and O’Connor said they believe they were able to accomplish everything they hoped and planned for at the start of their term.

“There were things we wanted to do pre-COVID, and we were able to do it,” Paradiso said. “I can safely say we’ve accomplished everything that we wanted and then we’ve added in things, but the difficulties of the year — I think that’s what actually drove us to plan more things, collaborate more than ever before with other big boards and clubs on campus.”

Paradiso said they used the struggles and challenges they faced to their advantage, in order to create programming that may have not occurred without the limitations imposed by the school.

“I think in a weird way we let our struggle aid us, you know,” she said. “We are going to push through our struggles so that we can continue for the students because nothing breaks your heart more than seeing everyone else struggling too.”

When reflecting on their accomplishments, O’Connor highlighted the creation of the Blinkie tracker as one of their fulfillments of a campaign promise.

“I also do want to say, we did get the Blinkie tracker up and running,” O’Connor said. ”I recall getting asked about this all the time as this has been something up in the air for the past five years … this was supposed to be one of the hardest things to accomplish on campus.”

As for Paradiso, she reflected on the difficulties that have arisen from the end of the term and school year.

“I think the thing that is hard for me …  is knowing we are leaving and all these projects that we are just starting, like the Dalloway’s Initiative and the call to action with the ‘smick’ movement … I know it is in good hands, but it is sad to know you aren’t going to be here to see the fullest expression of these things we have started,” Paradiso said.

Paradiso said she is grateful for the opportunity to serve the student body. And although she is experiencing burnout, she said, she believes this is a sign that they have done their job well.

“I’ve learned more about this school than I’ve probably ever needed to know, and I’m actually really grateful for that, because I’ve met people I didn’t know worked here … we were able to accomplish so much, and I can look back at and say ‘That was cool, we did that…,’” Paradiso said.

Paradiso reflected on her relationship with O’Connor. She said she believes their dynamic allowed them to effectively communicate with the administration and advocate on behalf of the student body.

“People knew we were going to fight for Saint Mary’s students, at the end of the day, and I think that’s what we have done or at least tried to — because in the end all we can do is try,” Paradiso said.

O’Connor said achieving anything during their term while simultaneously dealing with the pandemic was an accomplishment on its own.

“Giavanna and I put so much time and effort into being able to get things done, and the fact that we were able to do so is an accomplishment in itself,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said she feels accomplished because they did everything they had set out to do during their term.

“I really think we have crossed all our T’s and dotted all our I’s,” she added said.

O’Connor also said she was impressed at how the Saint Mary’s community united and came together during such a turbulent year. The community has left a lasting impact on her, she said, which she will carry with her into the future. 

“Being able to witness how the Saint Mary’s community comes together is something I will never forget, not just now in light of the Smick Rally but in all different aspects … being able to witness and experience how great this community is and also knowing I won’t be leaving this community even if I won’t be here [physically] has been an honor,” O’Connor said.

Paradiso encouraged students to continue building community within the campus and striving to improve Saint Mary’s and beyond.

“I want to encourage students to continue ‘knocking on the door’…  because this wouldn’t be Saint Mary’s without the students, it would be nothing without the students,” Paradiso said. “… It has been a pleasure for Kelsey and me to serve the students any way we can. It is all so minuscule in the world, with everything going on — so many bigger things — but if we can do anything on our small campus to put a smile on a fellow Belle’s face, then we’ve done our job.”

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