On a Tuesday afternoon, the Student Government Association (SGA) office, located in Room 103 of the Student Center Annex, is pretty quiet. Besides staff members casually checking their mailboxes, there is not much going on.
When I was there, I was suddenly greeted by Rajhon White, a Montclair State student and current President of the SGA. The vibe in the office suddenly changed, as he warmly greeted me with a handshake and his bright smile that he is known for around campus. When asked about why he chose to attend Montclair State during his senior year of high school, he lit up with excitement.
“I came here for a tour. It wasn’t even a real tour, but as soon as I got here, I knew this was the campus for me. I felt comfortable, “said White, 22, a communication studies major with a focus in organizational communication as well as a minor in leadership. He added that direct access to the city was a factor in his decision as, he is passionate about both Broadway and theater.
Coming from Buena, a small town in South Jersey, where he was involved in numerous high school clubs, White immediately showed interest in becoming involved on campus during his first semester in the fall of 2012.
“In high school, I did Student Council. I played football. I did drama club. I was always involved. So in college, I really wanted to get involved. During my orientation, I met with the SGA E-Board and they encouraged me to. That really reeled me in,” he said.
White has held numerous SGA positions during his time at Montclair State before being appointed President for his senior year. His previous positions included being a Legislator, Treasurer for the Programming Board and Vice President.
When asked what he has gained from taking on so many different roles, he says the biggest thing he has learned is that there are two sides to every story.
“I think a lot of times, students complain about certain things, as they should,” he said. “You are paying all this money to come to an institution. You should be getting what you want out of it. However, there is always another side. There is always a reason or some kind of road block that is not allowing something to happen.”
White’s positive influence on the campus community is evident. After asking several students about their experiences with him, I received nothing but kind words and memories of how he has positively affected their experiences on campus. Ashley Favato, a 22-year-old senior and Co-Director of Student Life at Montclair (SLAM), SGA’s Programming Board, has been friends with White since her freshmen year, when they both got involved with the SGA.
“Rajhon always has a positive outlook on campus programming and says to go outside the box as much as possible, but to ‘KIS IT’ which stands for ‘keep it simple’,” said Favato, who will also be graduating this spring with a degree in family and child studies, hoping to become a teacher. She reflected on a special moment between her and White at this year’s Homecoming concert.
“There was a point where Rajhon and I were just sitting in the dugout of the stadium and looking at the audience and just smiling and so happy to see students happy,“ said Favato. “We were just reminiscing about having four years together as friends and teammates.”
In addition to his SGA positions, White has also worked for Undergraduate Admissions as an ambassador and has been a resident assistant (RA) in Blanton Hall since his sophomore year. Although he is passionate about all of the positions he has taken on, he says that being an RA has taught him the most about building connections with students.
“[Being an RA] has taught me more about time management and about those personal connections,” he said. “Being in the SGA, you can have a connection with an organization and get to know them, but when you are an RA, you need to know your residents. You need to know if they’re having an off day, and I became more aware of those kind of things. [Being an RA] definitely taught me to be more aware of my surroundings and how people are feeling.”
Katie Menza, a sophomore and one of White’s current residents, said White goes out of his way to make residents feel comfortable and at home. “He is very energetic and friendly, which makes him more approachable. He always says ‘hi’ and really tries to get to know his residents personally,” she said.
After his spring 2016 graduation, White hopes to continue working in Residence Life as a Community Director. He is also applying to graduate schools. When asked about what he will miss most about Montclair State, he looked over at his friend, who was also sitting in the office, smiled and said simply, “the people.”
“We have a campus where it’s very easy to meet people as long as you are willing to go out of your way in a sense. I have never said ‘hi’ to someone and been rejected. That is the culture of our campus and I hope that it remains that way.”