Photo by Matt Wildrick/The Commuter.

Serving through student government

John-Paul LeGare has always pursued his interests, taking the initiative and placing his education into his own hands.

His parents home-schooled him from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. 

“Home-schooling was great,” said LeGare. “I have nine siblings and my mom taught all of us, so it certainly was a task for her, but she really stepped up.” 

He went on to emphasize how homeschooling has given him the opportunity to take initiative. 

“You find that it helps you to be more independent,” LeGare explained.

LeGare was born in New York, not far from the city. He was raised in Vermont, then, moved to Maryland with his family due to his father’s work as a carpenter contractor. LeGare arrived at FCC in the fall of 2015 after graduating high school and joined the FCC Honors Program straight away. 

“I like to take initiative with academics,” LeGare said.

FCC President Elizabeth Burmaster
In his first semester at FCC, he busied himself by helping to lead Cru, a Christian organization that meets on campus. One day, Cru sent LeGare as a representative at one of the Student Government Association (SGA) meetings and he took an immediate interest. LeGare continued to attend meetings and eventually applied for a leadership position, becoming a member of its executive board. 

This year, LeGare has been elected as president of FCC’s SGA – representing the nearly 13,000 students at FCC when he attends meetings with the school president’s cabinet, the Board of Trustees and the college senate. 

“I figured I had something to offer,” LeGare explained. “I saw the last SGA president, Kelly Billigmeier, and she was top notch; she really went all out and it really inspired me. I figured that if I could do half as good a job as she did, I would do honors at the office.”
The SGA functions as a liaison group between students, faculty and the administration, serving to bridge the gap between the two sides of the school. It is also active in the college governance process and appoints students to serve as representatives to the college senate and the many various committees on campus. 

As the SGA president, LeGare’s many responsibilities include one-on-one meetings with FCC’s president, approving student club budgets, sitting in on and chairing committees, and staying in contact and coordinating with other SGA executive board members.
One example of the SGA’s involvement in campus affairs, LeGare noted, is when a student has a suggestion for a specific class to be offered at FCC. 

“They can voice their opinion at SGA and curriculum committee meetings,” he said, “and they can tell us what their concerns are… giving students a way to participate in the way the college runs.”
The SGA at FCC is considered an integral part of how the college operates, and its value is fervently stressed by the students and faculty involved. 

“The Student Government Association at FCC, to me, as the president of this college, is one of the most important organizations in our college community,” said President Elizabeth Burmaster. “Everything in our college should be directed at serving our students. We are only an effective college if we are meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students.” 

Burmaster explained that the SGA is the voice of the student body that communicates directly to the faculty and administration. 

“The reason I attend the meetings is so that I hear directly, as the president of the college, that student voice,” said Burmaster.

LeGare chats with fellow SGA member

This is one of the core beliefs that drive the SGA in their mission – giving students a voice and allowing them to have a say when it comes to their college experience. 

“When student have concerns, or issues, or even celebrations, they come here to voice what they need to voice, and what is important to them,” said Melissa Main, assistant director of student development. “The parking deck… for the longest time the issue was ‘there’s not enough parking on campus.’” 

She explained that the SGA is one affinity group that took this issue to a higher level and talked about it, so that decisions could be made at the administrative level. 

Main also added that students involved in the SGA can learn and hone leadership skills. 

“I think the biggest thing is this is the place they’re going to be heard,” said Main, “we take the topics and we really talk about them and what steps we can move forward to.” 

The SGA is consistently looking to make itself known and to increase the number of participating students. 

“It’s very difficult to get the word out,” LeGare said. “but student attendance continues to improve and there are usually six or seven new students at every meeting.” 

Active SGA members see the importance of becoming involved with their school and making a difference for the betterment of FCC. Interested students can stop by the SGA office, H-106, for more information and a calendar of upcoming meetings. 

Every student at FCC is a member of the SGA and is welcome to participate. 

“It’s great to be a board member, but you can’t have an SGA if you don’t have the active members,” said Main, “if you just have the board, that’s great, but that’s kind of boring if there’s nobody in the seats to talk and to listen to.”

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