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The Class Board of 2019 smiles for a picture during the planting of the The Class of 2019 Penn tree. | Courtesy of Toto Nguyen

Since its election in mid-September, the Class Board of 2019 has spent a successful semester at the helm of its 2,435-member freshman class.

As a group, the Class Board of 2019 is particularly diverse. Out of 11 people, seven are students of color, four are women and three are international students. Some members have had extensive experience on student government — College freshman and Executive Vice President Montell Brown was president of his high school class of 662 for four years — while others are brand new to the game.

On their campaign trails, the current freshman board employed a range of creative strategies to elicit votes. Candidates chalked their names onto sidewalks, placed bowls of candy in common areas and slapped posters all over trees, bulletin boards and walls. They hung around in public areas and talked to anyone who was willing to listen for a minute about their cause. During the three whirlwind days of elections, many candidates walked around freshman college houses and dining halls with iPads in hand, actively soliciting votes.

Some members cited the brief campaign season as the reason for candidates’ superficial methods and goals.

“I probably walked up to 100 people [in] three days,” College freshman and Vice President of Internal Affairs Jessica Lim said. “By the end of the process, I was exhausted. I felt that it wasn’t as much about what your ideas were as it was about how many people you met in a very short time.”

Despite the quick turnaround time, many candidates said it was still beneficial to meet their classmates in person.

“My main thing was getting to know each and every person individually, just a little bit,” Wharton freshman and President Toto Nguyen said. “It’s the responsibility of a president of the class to know his or her class as best as possible. I tried to form that personal connection with each and every person.”

“It was a lot of one-on-one interpersonal contact,” Brown agreed. “Shaking hands, talking to people, seeing what they wanted, seeing what they needed. It was also connecting with other people who would help me get my name out.”

Extraversion and likability were two other standout traits of winning candidates.

“I think I won because of my charisma, my outgoing personality and my ability to connect with the constituents,” Brown said.

Less than a week after being elected, the Class of 2019 board organized their first major event, Econ Scream. The event went smoothly despite a short deadline and a last minute downpour that forced the board to move the venue indoors. The freshman board also helped organize Skimmer Fest, a music festival featuring AlunaGeorge that took place Oct. 3rd in Houston Hall.

Next Thursday, the Class Board of 2019 will hold Cram ’N Jam, a study break event to give freshmen an opportunity to hang out and relax with friends amid the stress of finals. There will be yoga, board games, music and puppies provided by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The past semester has been an invigorating and eye-opening experience for the 11 members of the class board. They said that while adjusting to the new demands of college student government and its high levels of autonomy were challenging, they were taking it all in stride.

“It definitely is a lot of fun. The amount of independence we get was surprising, which is great,” Nguyen said.

“It’s been difficult at times just because [we] didn’t know each other before,” Lim said. “[But] I think we complement each other’s strengths really well and have a good working relationship. We all have each other’s best interests at heart, and really do care about each other as people at the end of the day.”

Overall, the Class Board of 2019 functions not just as a branch of student government, but as a group of collaborative and dedicated individuals who have come together to help freshmen make the best of their time at Penn.

“Each and every experience of class board so far has been absolutely tremendous,” Nguyen said. “The board has been great.”

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