The first member of her immediate family to attend college, junior Essence Hightower has embraced any opportunity that comes her way, the most recent being winning the Student Association presidential race.
She has has held many leadership positions in clubs including public relations chair for Kinks and National Black Law Student Association her sophomore year as well as being co-president of Plattsburgh State cares this year.
She has been looking into a career in politics recently and believes that being the president of the SA will give her a more macro view of the political sphere. She said the issues that are important to her are the lack of culture on campus and the lack of representation in administration.
“Being that SUNY Plattsburgh has had so many recent incidents in regards to race and ethnicity I felt that there needed to be a change to our school’s policy,” Hightower said. “The only way I know how to adjust that is to change the policies this institution has in place.”
She was inspired to run for president by professor of African Studies, Marco Turco. He has only taught her for one semester, but already recognizes her as a committed, focused and intellectually agile.
Turco teaches his classes in a way that requires deep, uncomfortable introspection on strongly held perceptions of reality about Africa through the lens of American power, challenging the very core of a students belief system.
“Essence rose to the occasion with a spirit of openness a willingness to consider the ‘other,’” Turco said. “With a remarkable ability to immediately grasp the myopia and arrogance of her secular education.”
As a sociology major with a double minor in social justice and gender and women studies from Freeport Long Island, Hightower came to PSUC to be far from home, while still staying in state. Her favorite part about Plattsburgh itself is the scenery, particularly the river, where she likes to go to clear her head.
Hightower plans to earn her bachelor’s at PSUC and then hopes to move on to Georgia State University for graduate school.
Hightower is wasting no time, already becoming active in every area she is studying. She has interned for Title IX the last two semesters and held a TA position for a history course her first year.
Although she has faced obstacles, Hightower doesn’t let them stop her from achieving her goals.
“Coming to college was an obstacle to begin with financially and has always been a problem,” Hightower said. “But, everyone has many obstacles they face, and I’ve been through a lot as well but I don’t let those things define me.”
There are several techniques she uses to cope when she is feeling the pressure including positive thinking, meditation and positive affirmations.
“Reflecting on the past in order to create a brighter future for myself and others is what I aim to do,” Hightower said. “I just learned to believe in myself.”
Her strengths and determination to succeed are apparent to those around her, leading them all to root for her as she achieved her goals.
“Essence is extremely hardworking and deeply committed to social justice issues,” PSUC sociology professor Stanley Sabin. “I am so proud of her accomplishments and I know this victory will be the first of many successes.”
Email Alana Penny at firstname.lastname@example.org