Life as Eastern’s student executive vice president

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Rob Le Cates

Student Government Vice President Payton Ade adjourns the Wednesday Student Government meeting.

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Associate News Editor

Every day we walk through campus, walking past hundreds of faces that we don’t think much about. Hundreds of people with their own struggles, goals and achievements.

Hundreds of people who each have a story to tell. A story of the journey that has led them to who they have become during their time at Eastern. Many of them have made their mark in Eastern one way or another, but you wouldn’t know that by simply walking past them.

One such student who has made their mark is Payton Ade, a sophomore majoring in history and political science.

Their journey began when they joined Eastern mid-pandemic in the fall of 2020, beginning a time of change, self-discovery and a whole lot of school involvement.

In the short time they have been on campus, they have taken on multiple leadership positions: the Interim Speaker of student government, the executive vice president of student government, the Eastern representative to the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee, the chair of the Student Action Team, the student trustee in the Board of Trustees and the treasurer of the Political Science Association.

Needless to say, during their time in Eastern, Ade has had to balance lots of different responsibilities, but it was not always like that for them.

In high school, they were not quite as involved as they are now, so they had little experience taking on leadership roles.

“I did not do any kind of student council in high school, but it’s something that I got invested in very early, and something that completely reshaped my college experience,” Ade said.

They came to Eastern with the goal of studying math secondary education and becoming a teacher once their time at the university came to an end.

“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Ade said. “That’s why I wanted to be a teacher. I was a math education major because I sucked at math. When I was a kid, I was awful, but I knew what the problems were. I knew why I was bad. I knew why I wasn’t learning. I knew why students fell off, so I wanted to be a teacher to stop that, to be there to help them.”

That all changed when they started gaining an interest in political science and history, but that same love for helping people has remained during their time involved in student affairs. They also fell in love with the way the bureaucratic system works.

“I kind of fell in love with learning about the bureaucratic system and how convoluted but also perfectly maintained it is,” Ade said. “It’s all done for a specific reason. There’s a specific reason why everything has to happen. When you look outside of it, it looks like it’s a mess. When you actually look inside the bureaucratic system, it makes sense why you gotta go through each step. I always found that very interesting.”

Ade has accomplished many things during their time at Eastern, but what they are most proud of is that they are only a sophomore and pushed themselves to get involved on campus during a global pandemic.

“I am a sophomore, and I came out of a pandemic as the youngest trustee EIU has ever had,” Ade said. “I spoke at convocation at the beginning of this year. To me, it was probably my biggest accomplishment ever. I remember I got the email for it that I was going to speak at convocation, and I immediately called my mother…I was surprised that I was able to get to this level as a sophomore.”

Handling the amount of responsibilities they have has not been easy for them, but they want students to know that it is achievable. As somebody who did not get very involved in student affairs in the past, Ade understands why students may feel a little nervous or shy about doing so.

“It’s okay to be a little nervous about getting involved, but you’re never going to know what will happen unless you do it,” Ade said. “It’s okay to try something and not like it. It’s okay to say ‘That’s not for me,’ and join organizations like ‘Ah, it’s not really for me.’ That’s okay. You’re trying new things. You’re in a new environment. Just go out there and try it.”

Being a part of Eastern has not only been an opportunity for Ade to find themselves in their role as a student leader, they have also been able to learn a little bit more about their identity as a nonbinary, bisexual person.

“I entered college not knowing who I was,” Ade said. “I came in as a math secondary education major. I did not know my gender, I did not know my sexuality. And those things still develop, they still change. Gender and sexuality are very fluid, but I think that is one of my biggest [accomplishments], coming into college not knowing who I was, and now I feel very cemented in who I am.”

Payton Ade’s college experience has helped them welcome change and reinvention, and they hope other students do so too.

“It’s okay to not be the same person you were in high school, and it’s okay to change,” Ade said. “Changing is okay. It’s okay that you might realize things about yourself that you didn’t know.”

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]