Students take yellow brick road to royalty
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From chapter presidents to campus royals seniors Justin Earls and Catie Witt are proud holders of the 2016 Homecoming King and Queen titles.
Both are heavily involved on campus and have been making an effort to participate in all of the homecoming events for the week.
Earls is the president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Strong Mentoring, NAACP, part of the Black Student Union and plays for Eastern’s basketball team.
He is also majoring in sociology and minoring in criminology.
He plans to go into mentoring for juvenile delinquents or pursue a detective role with his degree and hopes to one day open up his own mentoring service for youth.
“I want help individuals and I can share my story and things that’s happened throughout my life and show them a better route to take in life,” Earls said. “You can’t always put all your eggs in one basket and you always need a back-up plan. There’s always different roads and different goals you can set for yourself to be successful in life.”
Earls is the youngest president that Alpha Phi Alpha’s Eastern Chapter has had.
Earls said his fraternity brother and 2015 Homecoming King Darien Ghostone encouraged his leadership roles and his participation in the homecoming court nominations.
“I was surprised completely because I had felt I had a shot at winning but never actually thought I would win,” Earls said.
Earls said that his leadership roles were things he has always wanted to do, and he felt that his involvement in student life, athletics and his fraternity at Eastern helped him win the crown.
“I hope (people) know I am a great leader and they don’t think I am a person who likes being in the spotlight,” Earls said. “I’m very humble and I’m grateful for every achievement that I have earned in life.”
During Earls sophomore year in college he said he tore his ACL and that injury helped shape his perspective on life. He lives by the motto: “challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
During his time with his injury, he said he did not miss basketball practices and tried to continue to be involved as much as he could at the time.
He said he tore his ACL a second time in the past year.
“I think about everything happening for a reason, and I am a very strong person in faith and I realize God doesn’t make any mistakes,” Earls said. “I felt like these things happened to me so I can play a bigger role in the organization.”
His injuries did not stop him, and he said he persevered through his challenges which helped him become the person he is today.
“If you see me I always have a smile on my face and I’m very approachable,” Earls said. “I’m here for the campus and here for EIU.”
Earls said his time at Eastern has made a difference in his life, as well.
“If I didn’t come to EIU probably made me into the man I am today,” Earls said. “I’ve been through a lot of adversity since I got here and it’s made me stronger, so EIU means strength to me.”
Witt is the president of Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority at Eastern and is the student body president of Eastern.
She was crowned Homecoming Princess in her sophomore year, and also emceed the coronation last year.
“I honestly didn’t think I had a shot (at winning),” Witt said. “I was so shocked when they called my name.”
She said her sorority played a large role in the support she received for her nomination into Homecoming Court and was surprised that she won.
“There’s 60 women (in my chapter) and you’re not going to be best friends with all of them, but it’s nice to be able to go to any of them and ask them for advice or for help.”
She is double majoring in public relations and political science, and sees herself someday going into student affairs or being involved with organizing Greek life on college campuses.
“People say I have the face of a politician,” Witt said. “I really like helping people and see myself working more with students, especially freshmen.”
Witt says student government and her presidential positon in her chapter has shaped her idea of leadership and said that every role she has calls for a different type of leadership.
“I feel like with my sorority, it’s more of an emotional role. My sisters come to me and it’s not just for answers, but advice and things like that,” Witt said. “Being student body president has more of a professional feel.”
Witt often refers to the quote by Maya Angelou’s quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
She said that it is important for her to be remembered on campus through the interactions she has had with the entire student body, faculty and staff.
She likes to connect with people, even if the interaction she has is brief.
Witt says she loves working with people and meeting new people and referred to herself as a cut-open onion.
“They say people have layers like an onion, but I’m the complete opposite when I talk to people,” Witt said. “I’m like an onion, but cut in half so you can see all of the layers at once.”
Witt was also involved with the Fund EIU campaign and is was also part of organizing the First Night event during the PROWL weekends.
Witt said she loves working with new students and aimed to make them feel as at home as she did during her first year at Eastern.
“It’s hard to imagine myself being anything but a Panther,” Witt said. “I want to make sure EIU feels like home because EIU is like home for me.”
Both the Homecoming King and Queen will be participating in the various activities on campus with their respective fraternities and sororities and will also appear on a float during the Homecoming Parade at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Angelica Cataldo can be reached at 581-2812 or firstname.lastname@example.org.