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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Elizabeth City State University’s SGA President Jay’Quahn Blackledge

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Elizabeth City State University and did an interview with Jay’Quahn Blackledge the 2023-2024 Student Government Association president.

The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes in being elected by their peers to lead. Blackledge, who is majoring in Psychology, is from Washington, NC. He is a proud Spring 2023 initiate of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

We interviewed Blackledge, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2023-2024.

Photo Credit: @joelonais

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?

As the SGA President at Elizabeth City State University, I have learned that building meaningful connections with faculty, staff, and students is essential for effective leadership. By building relationships on campus, with professors and administrators, I have been able to better understand the needs and concerns of the student body. Networking with other student government leaders from different institutions has taught me the importance of collaboration and learning from peers in similar positions. By exchanging ideas and best practices, my cabinet and I have been working to implement new initiatives and programs that benefit our university community. My biggest takeaway as SGA President is realizing that we all share a common goal of making ECSU a better place to live and learn for students. By navigating who we are as individuals in this ever changing world, we can work together towards creating a positive impact on campus and beyond, but it takes everyone using their voice to be the change that we seek.

What made you decide to attend Elizabeth City State University for undergrad?

I chose to attend Elizabeth City State University because it wasn’t too far from home and it’s a smaller campus so it would be easier to connect with the professors. With Elizabeth City State University being a smaller campus I knew they would actually care about me being successful and achieving my goals because they would see me more often and I would have the opportunity to build personal relationships with faculty and staff that I might not have been able to do if I went to a bigger University.

Photo Credit: Charlotte Robertson

How has Elizabeth City State University molded you into the person you are today?

Since the very first day I walked on campus my freshman year the people have been loving and they accepted me with open arms. I was a very shy person and never liked to come out of my room, but the friends that I made brought me out of my shell and pushed me to get involved and enjoy my college experience. That’s when I met my mentor Jimmy Chambers who was the SGA President at the time and he said I should consider joining student government. I said why not and ever since my sophomore year I have been in SGA moving up the ladder to get where I am now as SGA President. Elizabeth City State University helped me learn who I was as a person and challenged me to do more and be better. If my freshman self saw where I am now, he would be amazed because I didn’t see this for myself when I first got to college. I can’t thank Elizabeth City State University enough for helping shape me into the man I am today and the leader I aspire to be in the future.

What specific initiatives have you headed up this year (or are planning) and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?

My administration and I have been working to bring the student body together and get involved on campus. We wanted to bring something new to the students. That’s why we’ve planned SGA Week where students get to see us outside of our positions and build connections on a personal level. We’re also planning to do a Walk Through Town Hall where administrators gather and students can walk around and express their concerns personally without having to sit through a meeting. I have planned a meeting with Josh Stein who is running for NC Governor where he came and spoke to students about his campaign and the importance of voting. I’ve planned a meeting with the CIAA commissioner (which is the conference that houses our athletics teams) to introduce a more inclusive program to the conference that promotes work, advocacy and community involvement. My administration and I are trying our best to set a solid foundation for future administrations to follow and build upon for the advancement of Elizabeth City State University.

Photo Credit: @b12_productions

How is your SGA administration/school currently working on attending to the mental health of students?

Elizabeth City State University has incorporated Wellness Days throughout the school year where students get a break from classes and they can have the day to themselves to focus on their mental health and practice self care. Elizabeth City State University has also extended the hours of counseling services and student health services to be there for the needs of the student body.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership means embodying humility and being an active listener to the needs and concerns of both the student body and my cabinet members. You have to be able to take criticism and have thick skin when becoming a leader. I wouldn’t be half the leader I am if not for the support of my cabinet, Dayana Garza, Joshua Chavous, Briana Singletary, Tonea Williams, Lauren Twine, Noel Herron, Kayla Dixon and Devon Riddick all push me to do better and they keep me grounded so I don’t get overwhelmed. Leadership isn’t easy and it isn’t always fun, so you have to care about helping others and have a passion for people. My goal is to empower students to become leaders themselves and make a positive impact not only within our university but also in their communities beyond graduation.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2023/2024?

Schools should utilize social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to showcase student achievements and events, as well as communicate with the school community in real-time. By investing in their online presence, schools can better connect with students and parents, and keep them informed about all the great things happening at the school. It is important to meet people where they are and prospective students are always on their phone so if you can promote yourself on the platforms that they are using then they are introduced to all that your institution has to offer because they can see all the good things you are doing without having to look too hard.

Photo Credit: @ecsuvikings

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?

Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture because it provides a platform for showcasing the achievements, experiences, and perspectives of black students on campus. For many people like myself, Watch The Yard could be their first glimpse into what life is like at an HBCU or college in general. Watch The Yard gave me an idea of things I could look forward to once I got to college because it showed different aspects of college life. Watch The Yard fosters a sense of community and solidarity among black students by sharing stories that resonate with their own lived experiences and struggles and serves as a valuable resource for promoting visibility, representation, and empowerment within college communities.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

My goal after graduation is to attend law school to obtain my degree and become a defense attorney.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Jay’Quahn Blackledge for his work as the SGA President of Elizabeth City State University.

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