By Jessie Morgan

On Wednesday night, students packed the Larsen Student Union for the annual Student Body Presidential and Vice Presidential debate. During the debate, the running-heads of the 2020 elections spoke on how they plan to best represent the Messiah Community.

        The event featured two leading candidates – Yabets Assefa and Will Sloyer running against America Cervantes and Matt Jenkins.

        Assefa, a junior studying business administration, and running mate Will Sloyer, a junior social work major, sported the campaign slogan Love is an Act. They emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of the student body through love and action.

        “Listening is a form of love, and once we’ve heard people’s problems and concerns, we want to take action,” Assefa said during the debate.

        Assefa, who currently sits on the SGA cabinet as VP of Organizations, decided to run after seeing the positive impact that these positions can bring to campus. Both Assefa and Sloyer believe that listening to the concerns of individuals is the best way to begin making changes within the student body. Some of their campaign projects included conversing among the student body, sitting down with different leaders across campus and taking surveys to see what changes students would like to see in the future.

        According to Assefa, good leadership “starts with listening, being approachable and having open hours, hearing people’s experiences and not judging, and being open to what they are going through.” This includes all people and groups and those who disagree with them.

        “We’re going to start with honoring and caring for people, and move from there. We’re not the ones who are saying these things that need to be changed, it’s you guys,” Sloyer said.

        Other changes the running mates would like to initiate are maintaining sustainable practices, cultivating a sense of belonging within the community, and increasing awareness of diverse groups on campus through the Multicultural Council. The pair plans to use social media for SGA to bring more traffic to the intercultural office. Assefa also hopes to open more doors for service opportunities across campus, such as making service through the Agape Center a possible chapel credit.

“Making service through the Agape Center a possible chapel credit will help students to have a better sense of what it means to express your faith rather than just sitting and listening,” Assefa said.

 Running against Assefa and Sloyer are America Cervantes, a junior athletic training major, and Matthew Jenkins, a junior triple major in English, philosophy, and Biblical and religious studies English major. Cervantes and Jenkins went into the 2020 election with a desire to holistically represent the entire student body when making decisions and changes to campus and student life.

        “Being involved in the multicultural community, specifically La Alianza Latina, I understand how students feel when they say they feel marginalized,” Cervantes said in her campaign bio. “Being involved on campus has allowed me to create deep relationships with people I would have never crossed paths with.”

The pair plans to shine a light on marginalized groups across campus, including LGBTQ+ groups and the physically disabled, with a specific emphasis on mental health. Their campaign motto, Discussing Mental Health and Creating Transparency, points directly to the changes they hope to bring about in these areas.

        Cervantes and Jenkins spoke of their plans to partner with both Minds Matter and the Engle Center to promote mental health through discussion. The pair believes that although mental health impacts so much of the Messiah community, it is a topic that is not spoken about enough, and therefore limits our understanding of one another.

        “This is a topic we want to carry on through our whole term, not just do it once and be done with it,” Cervantes said.

        The running mates also hope to make the student body more aware of what the SGA is working on throughout the year. They plan to create a monthly newsletter that would inform students of the changes being made across campus.

        “I’m just praying that God’s will be done,” Tetsuo Takahara, the current Student Body President, said. “I hope that the best person for the job gets elected, and that they will be able to serve the community faithfully this coming year.”

        The voting period for the elections began at 8 p.m. after the debate and ends on Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m.

SGA encourages all Messiah students to get involved in the election and support the candidates best suited to bring positive change to the Messiah community.