Student Senate president elected to new office

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Student Senate president elected to new office

 COURTESY / Eric-John Szczepaniak

COURTESY / Eric-John Szczepaniak

COURTESY / Eric-John Szczepaniak

COURTESY / Eric-John Szczepaniak

Katherine Arnold, Staff Reporter

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On Aug. 28th, the Michigan Center for Civic Education (MCCE) elected Student Senate President Eric-John Szczepaniak as its new president on the Board of Directors. 

As a senior studying social studies and education, his interest in civic education has been evolving from his childhood to today.

“I grew up with a mother who was very engaged in the community,” Szczepaniak said. “I saw firsthand how her efforts helped other people in my community, and so I followed suit.”

MCCE is an organization that is invested in the future of civic education through its work with young students to become more involved in their communities, and seeks to aid K-12 teachers to give their students access to the best practices that they can.

“Civic education is about being active in one’s community and empowering others to do the same,” Szczepaniak said.

However, he stressed that the role of civic education is more than just helping the younger generation to learn. 

“I believe in the immense potential of every individual to be the change they want to see in the world,” Szczepaniak said. “I know that folks can work together to create change and I want to empower others to gain agency and ownership in their own communities.”

That ideal is the driving force behind his desire to become a social studies teacher in the future, as well as his motivation for the many roles in the community that he has undertaken. 

Noting his position as GVSU’s Student Senate President, his new presidency with MCCE, as well as his position on the board of education at Kenowa Hills Public High School, Szczepaniak has many roles to fulfill. What is the key to balancing his busy schedule and maintaining relationships? He suggested that, “by surrounding myself with friends in the work that I do, I don’t get lonely.” Finding a support system is not only important, but also beneficial as students head into the professional world after college, he said. 

Arising out of his plethora of experience as a role model in the community and student on campus, Szczepaniak summarized three key things that he has learned throughout his journey in civic education. 

First: everyone is deserving of grace and space.

“When we focus on the health of others in our organization, they will naturally grow, innovate and succeed,” Szczepaniak said. “This is the mantra that I try to embody with all of my peers.” 

Second: elevating the person who comes after you isn’t something to dread.

“We should dedicate ourselves to building up others around us to become those leaders and not feel threatened when a leader takes your work in a new direction,” Szczepaniak said. “It is incumbent upon us all to help grow those that will take our place and to be intentional that we are including more individuals at the table as often as possible.”

Third: love what you do and who you do it with.

“I love being able to show others the immense potential that they all have,” Szczepaniak said. “I love seeing others flourish. It is okay and healthy to leave an organization that is not feeding your wellbeing. We cannot do it all, but what we can do is support those around us and watch how far we can grow collectively.”