By Michael K. Conway
Marist College football begins every game after the playing of the national anthem. A small group of students just outside of the end zone take a stand by kneeling on the ground. At the head of this small but dedicated group is Marist senior Ashley Haynes, president of the Black Student Union (BSU).
Bearing the heavy burden of being the face of the BSU, Haynes looks to build a strong relationship with the Poughkeepsie community through youth encouragement and their presence on Marist’s campus. “The mission of the Black Student Union aims at unifying people through education, exposure, and immersion of the various and diverse forms of black culture and identity. We will act as an advocating voice for underrepresented students at Marist College,” Haynes said.
Her prowess as the head of the group distinguishes her as a physical and academic leader who represents the ideals of Marist College. “We set an example for the black community that hard work and perseverance will help you accomplish your dreams. I am able to be a leader in the community by participating in many volunteer opportunities in the community, and taking a stand against injustices through protesting and marching,” Haynes said.
The BSU is an important institution for black students who may feel unrepresented among the Marist community. This is not to say that Marist College does not represent or reflect the interests of the black students, but with a “Black or African-American” population of 3.2% and a “White” population of 78.9% (as of 2015 according to www.marist.edu) it is important that black students can have an organization to celebrate their identity on campus. “An example of this is Hair Talk meeting that we conducted allow men and women to educate one another on Black hair and its many entities,” Haynes said. As president of the BSU, Haynes has been able to transition her leadership techniques and skills into another facet of her life: track and field.
As co-captain of the track and field team, Haynes described her role: “As the only black captain for the track and field team, and one of the few black captains overall, I use this position to help other black-athletes excel, and I also strive to be a great representation for my people. My continuous hard work and dedication are what rewarded me with the captain position, and has allowed me to show other student-athletes that if you work hard enough, you can obtain the same position.” From the BSU to the field and into professional life, Haynes is ready to make another transition out of college.
Haynes is getting ready to cap off her career at Marist and apply what she has learned to the professional world. “As the President of the Black Student Union I was able to learn a lot about myself. When I took on the President position I was too confident with myself, but over the year I found that I was born to be a leader. I was forced to break out of my comfort zone and engage with people whom I had never thought I would interact with,” Haynes said.