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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student Senate Community Relations Committee under new leadership, establishing new direction

Photo by Courtesy of Kristina Samuel
Kristina Headshot CRC

Youth advocacy has always been a passion for biology junior Kristina Samuel. In her role in the Student Senate, she served as a member of the Community Relations Committee, working with the city of Bryan to find ways to give back to a community that Texas A&M benefits from so greatly.

The Community Relations Committee serves a unique role in the Student Senate. Unlike other committees, such as Academic Affairs or Student Services, the Community Relations Committee is focused on how students can give back to the community outside of campus borders. Within the committee, each member is able to focus on one community of their choice. 

Samuel described this unique aspect of this committee, saying that this direct structure allows the committee to make tight connections with every group that they work with. Each member meets with members of the local government to decide how best to work with each community, and Samuel said these relationships have helped her to gain experience in community outreach and in serving the community.

“I’ve met with several city council members and community leaders of Bryan since then to learn more about how we can better support and give back,” Samuel said.

Outside of her role in Student Senate, Samuel is the founder and president of the A&M chapter of MOVE Texas. Defined by its goal to “Mobilize. Organize. Vote. Empower.,” MOVE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on civic engagement, specifically among young people and students. This experience gave Samuel the confidence to run for community relations chair, she said.

“Given my experience in community organizing, especially in MOVE Texas and being a member of Community Relations already, has given me the tools to be the most qualified candidate I can be for this role,” Samuel said.

However, Samuel said she would not have run without support from other senators.

“Honestly, I don’t think I would have felt empowered to run for chair if it weren’t for my fellow Student Senate and [Student Government Association] peers who have really encouraged me to do so,” Samuel said.

One such supporter is computer science and mathematics sophomore Jessica Williams, chair of the Legislative Relations Committee, who has worked closely with Samuel and her committee. Williams said she is excited Samuel has this role to further her work.

“She has a true passion for the community.” Williams said. “I’m excited to see what she does with the role.”

Another supporter of Samuel is senator Kirk Niekamp, a public health senior. During the confirmation hearing held on Feb. 2, Niekamp asked Samuel, “Is it true that we have worked together before Senate last summer? And is it true that you are one of the best people that I have ever worked with on a team?”

During her presentation before the Senate, Samuel discussed her plans as community relations chair, with her two main goals to increase civic engagement in every election and to strengthen community connections by building a nonpartisan, student focused reputation.

This first goal comes from her experience with MOVE Texas, and Samuel said she wants to work with nonpartisan groups to help students be involved in and informed about local elections.

“Students cannot participate in local politics if they don’t know what’s going on, so I will be spreading a nonpartisan voter guide that has all candidate information in one place,” Samuel said.

The second goal, a major focus of Samuel’s, is continuity for future student leaders.

“Continuity is something that I really think gets overlooked and I would want any endeavors we pursue with these community connections to be more established, easily be built on each other and mature with every Senate session succeeding me,” Samuel said.

With this, Samuel is trying to establish a legacy for the Community Relations Committee, building upon the work of the previous chair, international studies senior Alexia Hernandez.

A focus of Samuel’s is building a community, which includes student involvement.

“I think a huge issue I’ve observed is that student government has a tendency to be a bubble, in the sense that people who are in it are super involved and those who are not barely know its existence,” Samuel said. “If more students attended or watched [meetings], they could potentially have so much impact not just on the legislation that gets passed, but also accountability that senators are active in their duty.”

Samuel was the only candidate nominated to run for this position, and she was elected to be Community Relations Chair by a unanimous vote on Feb. 2. 

When discussing her election as the Community Relations chair, Samuel said she sees it as an opportunity to continue what she has already started, by building further relations with local communities and increasing student voter engagement on a broader scale.

Samuel said, “The platform I would be given, if elected, would allow me to do the work that others have empowered me to do and streamline my passions of community service and civic engagement across the greater Brazos County area.”

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