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Profiles in Student Leadership – Binta Ceesay

Binta Ceesay stands with 2 other students, all holding papers in hand.

We may be in the middle of a health pandemic and times of civil unrest, however SUNY students across the system are still finding ways to flex their leadership skills. Learning of these efforts has made us find stories that shed light on all of our students’ good work in unusual times. With our SUNY SAIL Institute, we will have found individuals and stories that are built around SUNY student leadership during a pandemic that we will be sharing through the summer. Topics will include:

  • How have you shown leadership through this pandemic?
  • What have you admired about others’ leadership through this pandemic?

To start us off, we turn to the University at Albany and a graduate student at the School of Public Health who shares how she is helping her fellow students feel supported and part of a team during these unusual times.

My name is Binta Ceesay, I am currently a graduate student at University at Albany School of Public health. I am also a program coordinator for AMP & CSTEP (AC²) at SUNY New Paltz.  My pronouns are She, Her, Hers.

The goal of the AC² Program is to increase the number of historically underrepresented (Black/African American, Latino/a/Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, Hawaiian Native, and Pacific Islander) and income-eligible college students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and health-related fields.

In a normal semester, there would be a professional development workshops, advising and tutoring going on in our office space. Amidst the pandemic, we shifted our platform online to cater to our student’s needs. As a program coordinator, I was already aware of the hardships many of my students faced. Alongside the Director Nancy Campos the program is structured to provide students with ways to succeed through the STEM field with resources and support. However, COVID-19 amplified those hardships and exposed all of us to new ones.

Each week Nancy and I would have weekly mental health check- in with our students. This allows them to express their feelings and still receive support from our community. In April, three faculty members from the Black Lives Matter at School organization and I held a forum discussing the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Over 50 students and faculty joined this forum. Due to my public health background, I did a presentation about the impact on communities of color discussing issues such as health disparities, racial discriminations, financial impact and the overall impact on college students. This presentation provided a platform for students to explain their own stories and provide faculty members with knowledge about the issues they may be facing.

My advice to students, this is a tough time and COVID-19 may have made things even worse for you. However, you have a community, turn to them for support. We are here for you. You made it this far and completed a semester during a pandemic. You did that and will continue to do amazing things even when times are tough. You Got This.

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    Written by Big Ideas

    Big Ideas is the Blog of The State University of New York, published by the Office of New Media.

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