Fostering Inclusive Communities: Kayla Zarella '21 Reflects on her Experience as SGA President
Simmons has prepared me for the future by valuing who I am. I’ve learned the importance of self-reflection, the necessity of teamwork, and genuinely hearing what others bring to the table. I’ve learned more from my peers and professors than I ever could have hoped for in my college career.
Why did you decide to come to Simmons?
I was looking for a smaller university when I first started my college search. When I came upon Simmons, I was drawn to the women-centered institutional experience. Ultimately, the students and faculty that I met while touring the campus solidified my choice. I knew right away that Simmons was a place that fostered community, valued advocacy, and encouraged their students to go out for leadership roles they might not have previously. The atmosphere the Simmons community provided was one that I wanted to be a part of and will forever be thankful for.
What inspired you to pursue a major in English Language and Literature?
Growing up, reading was always something that offered me an escape from reality. After taking a few courses in the English department, I was inspired by the professors who had begun to open my eyes to how literature has continuously changed societal perceptions throughout history. I’ve been planning on law school since early on in my high school career, but I never considered my hobby of reading as a possibility for my major in undergrad.
That quickly changed as I dove deeper into the English department and acquired critical thinking skills that created a new understanding of how writing influences our daily lives. Our opinions, values, and perceptions of self are all influenced by literature. It was through Simmons that I was able to connect the literature I loved to the courtroom.
Tell us about your experience as Student Government Association President.
I joined the Student Government Association (SGA) my first year at Simmons as a representative for the Class of 2021 Class Council. I was grateful just to be a part of the community and feel a greater sense of connection to the students around me. Little did I know just how much SGA would shape my Simmons experience.
Last year as the Student Affairs Officer, I worked with students interested in starting new organizations on campus. It was these interactions over the past three years that pushed me to run for Student Body President. I saw how passionate Simmons students were about creating a community they wanted to be a part of. When elections came around, I didn’t want our community to lose the progress or passion that brought me here, so I chose to run for president.
I enjoy every aspect of student government, from the senators who diligently work on initiatives to better our school to the organizations that provide a sense of community and inclusivity to every student who comes to Simmons. These experiences have shaped who I am today, each interaction that has led me to be a better student, leader, and friend.
What did you learn from this experience?
SGA brought so much more to me than simply being a notable aspect of my resume. I have learned how to voice my opinions where I once was afraid they wouldn’t matter. I have listened to the concerns of my peers and understood the importance of allyship and advocacy. Student government has shown me the necessity of valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion not only on campus and in the classroom, but in every aspect of my life. Continuing my self-education on these subjects and creating environments where everyone is validated is what I hope to bring into every experience moving forward.
These experiences have shaped who I am today, each interaction that has led me to be a better student, leader, and friend.
Tell us about your experience mentoring with Strong Women, Strong Girls.
Strong Women, Strong Girls was the first organization I joined at Simmons. For three years, I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of a mentorship program that worked with students in early middle school. This program focused on the idea of mutual empowerment. I understood how important that was after just one meeting. The girls I had the pleasure of mentoring once a week empowered me just as much as I hope I empowered them.
Each week, we focused on a woman or a young girl who had accomplished something, whether they were an advocate for an issue they were passionate about or had started their own business, etc. Through this program and the girls, I realized just how crucial it is to value the lives and experiences of women in our country, encourage one another to go into fields historically dominated by men, and provide support that can lead to mutual healing.
How is Simmons preparing you for the future?
Simmons has prepared me for the future by valuing who I am. I’ve learned the importance of self-reflection, the necessity of teamwork, and genuinely hearing what others bring to the table. I’ve learned more from my peers and professors than I ever could have hoped for in my college career. I can only hope to take these memories and what I have learned from them with me as I move into the next steps of my life.
Do you have a favorite Simmons memory?
One of my favorite memories through Simmons was joining the Simmons University Dance Company and having the opportunity to choreograph a dance with one of my closest friends. Being on stage with a group that was so dedicated after a semester of rehearsing together was such a fulfilling experience. It was the moment where I knew that Simmons had not only prepared me for my future but introduced me to friends that I will keep and cherish for a lifetime.