Student Leader Spotlight: Jennie Rokakis

Jennie Rokakis

  • Age: 21
  • Hometown: Canton, MI
  • Alma Mater: Eastern Michigan University
  • Class: Senior
  • Major/Area of Study: Women's and Gender Studies, Nonprofit Administration minor

The most rewarding part of my experience with Campus Pride was meeting so many great student leaders at the Campus Pride Summer Leadership Camp.  I am inspired every day by the awesome students that I met at camp and all of the great work they’re doing in their communities.  It really gives me hope for the future of the LGBT rights movement that we have so many caring and committed individuals working hard to create lasting change on and off of their campuses.  They help to give me the motivation to keep working and I know I’ve made lifelong friends.

How has what you’ve learned with Campus Pride benefited you personally?

Campus Pride has taught me a lot about becoming a leader and having the confidence to make a difference on my campus.  Camp Pride was only one week long, but it benefited me immensely.  It really did change my life.  I would love to work for an LGBT nonprofit organization after I graduate, and Campus Pride has helped to teach me the skills I will need to use in those organizations in order to empower and advocate on behalf of the people I will be serving.  Thanks to Campus Pride I have also met really wonderful student leaders with whom I have continual support.  We all still keep in contact and share our triumphs, trials, and ask questions of each other.  This support network of friends and leaders has been invaluable to me.

How have the skills or knowledge you’ve gained through your Campus Pride experienced assisted you in creating change on your campus or in you community? 

I have learned through action planning how to take my dreams and step by step make them a reality.  The “action planning” workshops at Camp helped me to be able to feasibly take a goal I wanted to accomplish and understand the steps I’d need to take to accomplish it, and try to foresee any problems along the way.  I have successfully implemented my action plan goal on my campus, which was to create an LGBT peer mentorship program.  I don’t think I could have done it without the support of the Camp faculty and my peers, as well as the action planning process.  My goal seemed less daunting and more manageable.  I now use action planning for most of the goals I wish to accomplish.  I’m glad that, because of Camp, I can hopefully make a lasting impact on my campus and the LGBT students to come.

What accomplishment — personally or at your student club, community organization, on your campus or elsewhere — makes you most proud? Why? 

I’m definitely most proud of the LGBT Peer Mentorship Program that I have implemented on my campus.  It feels really good to know that I can follow through on a goal that will ultimately help my peers.  I am more confident in working towards other goals now and I know that I really can make a difference on my campus.  Seeing not only my accomplishment, but other accomplishments by students on my campus makes me optimistic about the future of LGBT rights and inclusion not only on our campuses, but in our communities as well.

What would be your advice to another student looking toward creating change on their campus or in their community?  

My advice to another student looking to create change on their campus and in their community is to not be afraid of chasing big dreams or large goals.  Any goal needs to be broken down into smaller goals, so in attempting to achieve a larger goal, you will ultimately be successful in achieving more goals than you even first imagined.  One other important piece of advice is to network, network, network.  Always be looking to make new connections with campus and community leaders who can help you on your path to obtaining your goal.  Help and support can often be found in surprising and unlikely places.   The more support you have, the easier it will be to achieve your goal.

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