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An LSU student walks through in front of Coates Hall on Mar. 3, 2021 in LSU’s Quad.

The author of this article, Victor Castellon, currently serves as the president of the LSU Student Philanthropy Council. 

If I told you this past year has been tough, I would not be telling you anything you did not already know. 

What seems to save us through these times are our peers. Every day you encounter these people and, although you may know their names, you may not know who they are. Who they are transcends the classroom (or the Zoom room) and lies at the heart of the person. 

When I first came to the University, I did not know who I wanted to be (and still don’t), but I knew where I wanted to end up — sort of.

I think giving yourself up to service is the greatest gift you can give anyone or your community. Student leadership is where I found my passion, but it did not come fast or easy. I knew I wanted to better my community, but founding a student organization and serving two terms as president was not in my initial plans.

Frankly, if you had approached me with that idea all those years ago, I would have said that sounds exhausting. 

In my journey, I did not see it at first. I am glad I didn't. It took someone taking a chance on me to realize that this need for service was bigger than myself, and I needed a strong group of leaders around me to make the impact I wanted.

That is where my desire to lead was born and has resided ever since — but it hasn't always been that straightforward. 

This past year has been the most I have ever been tested as a student leader. As soon as the pandemic rolled in last spring, I felt an immense sense of duty to ensure my members were having a good experience. Now, a year later, that has not dwindled.

When the world has so little to offer in any sense of hope, I wanted us to be that place where people can go to feel grounded and purposeful. In a period of time when students feel disconnected from their campus, I wanted the work we do to be the thing that helps them plug back into what matters most to them. 

With everything going on, it is easy for someone to say, “This is not what I signed up for.”

But it is.

What you thought you signed up for was what you had seen in the past, but the present is right now. You signed up to be here — period. It is not what you imagined, but does it truly ever end up that way? 

Student leaders have pushed through this year in remarkable ways, like overcoming COVID-19 restrictions to continue meetings and even rising up to plan fundraisers and protests, never shying away from empowering those around them to better their community.

That is why we need student leaders, because empowerment is a well you never want to run dry. You can ask any student leader and they will say that the title is just that — a title. The real commitment lies in the sacrifice that is sometimes hidden behind closed doors. 

If you are reading this and you are a student leader, thank you. If you are not a student leader and are contemplating student leadership, you can and should do it. The most important part of a university is the students who fill it, and your tenacity could be just the thing that helps someone cross the stage.

Victor Castellon is a 22-year-old marketing senior from New Orleans. 

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