Students at Ithaca College regularly demonstrate that leadership comes in many forms. Their actions stem from a variety of motivations and concerns such as celebrating their heritage, giving back through community service, and bringing attention to important issues. No matter where their drive originates, IC has been a stepping-stone for many in promoting widespread positive change.
Paying It Forward
As a sophomore at IC, Marlowe Padilla ’16 didn’t want to go home for spring break, and he didn’t want to head off to a warm destination just to relax in the sun. Instead,
Padilla traveled to Virginia Beach to make a difference through the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program.
“Through that experience, I realized how much help different communities need,” Padilla said. As a senior, he wanted to participate in ASB again, so last spring he led a group on a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. In North Carolina, the students did maintenance work on rain gardens, which collect rainwater to grow ecosystems instead of allowing runoff water to transport pollutants to the ocean. They bagged oyster shells in an effort to rebuild and restore the coast’s oyster reefs. And they also took to the highway to clean up roadside trash, where at one time they gathered over 20 huge bags in only an hour.
As the trip’s leader, Padilla was responsible for keeping his team motivated and energized through a week of physically taxing work. A huge part of that, he said, was encouraging the students to understand their impact in transforming communities. Each evening the group reflected on the challenges and rewards of the trip. Padilla said that unity contributed to their overall success in North Carolina. Padilla’s motivation to help other communities also comes from wanting to contribute to an overall cycle of success.
“I’ve been successful because other people have helped to guide me to where I am, so I think the best way for me to repay them is to give back to others,” he said. “That’s why I do service. It’s all about paying it forward.”
Leading By Example
From cleaning up her preschool classmates’ blocks to reviving Ithaca College’s Italian Club, Nicole Veltri ’18 has seen herself as a leader for as long as she can remember.
“My mom taught me to be a leader and to lead by example,” Veltri said. “That’s always been huge for me through Girl Scouts, then soccer, and then as a camp counselor.”
When she came to IC, Veltri looked for an Italian club to join, but couldn’t find one. Her mom’s mantra—“lead by example”—rang in her ears, and Veltri knew she wanted to establish the organization herself. Through Facebook, word of mouth, and a successful cannoli fundraiser, Veltri has grown the Italian Club from a handful of students to a campus inspiration, earning the Outstanding New Student Organization Award from the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs.
Last year, the Italian Club had a language lesson with a student from the Republic of San Marino and taught members how to play popular Italian card games like Scopa and Briscola. The club also hosted a pizza cook-off, where local pizza vendors competed for the title of “best pizza in Ithaca.” Veltri planned to have nine pizzerias participating, but on the day of the event, four didn’t show up.
“I felt as though I promised the attendees something I couldn’t follow through on,” she said. But Veltri kept calm, dropped the entry price to compensate for the reduced options, and personally greeted all attendees to explain the situation.
Veltri is planning a bocce tournament for the fall and regional cooking nights where club members would find a traditional recipe from the region where their families are from, make the recipe, and discuss the history of the region and the dish.
She sees members of IC’s Italian Club as friends, and those genuine personal connections drive her as a leader.
“It’s really rewarding when people are excited about the ideas that come out of my head,” she said. “And I’m excited to hear what they have to say. Together we can turn an idea into something that can actually happen.”
Nicole Veltri '18 is president of the Italian Club.
Malik Morris '16 was captain of the football team his senior year.
A Higher Standard
As captain of the IC football team, Malik Morris ’16 had the attention of a lot of people. He chose to use the spotlight this position gave him to raise the awareness of sexual assault and rape, especially in the athletic community. In his senior year, Morris was a student cochair for Difficult Dialogues, which featured a film screening and discussion exploring sexual assault on college campuses. The Peggy Ryan Williams Difficult Dialogues Symposium explores complex and controversial subjects to engage audiences in civil and respectful dialogue. He said it’s important that student–athletes get involved with such discussions due to the rise of sexual assault cases in professional sports.
Morris, who is also a member of IC’s Leadership Academy, took different approaches to each of his leadership positions. In a sport, he said, leaders have to be vocal to hype the team up while also demonstrating work ethic. The Difficult Dialogues program required more engagement with the issues, like teaching the public about preventing sexual assault and connecting victims to necessary resources.
“Being able to help someone through serious struggles gives you a good feeling,” he said. “You can really transform somebody’s life.” His tie between the two experiences is accountability—from giving his all during practices and games to creating positive change to ensure justice. “As a leader, you can’t follow the rest of the crowd,” he said. “You have to hold yourself to a higher standard.”
When Morris thinks of leadership, he thinks about how leaders help people move toward their goals. Morris aims for affirmative leadership, which encourages others to be their best selves. “Nobody’s perfect—I’m not perfect myself—but I build myself while I’m building others, and they do the same. It’s a good cycle to be in,” he said.
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Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.