Leadership: It’s a word that when heard or read evokes a distinctive sentiment in us all. Senior history and adolescent education major Dayshawn Simmons defines leadership with one word: passion. “The one quality of a leader is to be passionate, and leadership is a process that rises out of that passion,” he said.
From Residence Life to College Senate, the organizations in which Simmons immerses himself share a common intent: the enhancement of student life, an interest that spurred Simmons to compete in his student government elections at the ripe age of nine. In sixth grade his ultimate feat was beating out an eighth grader for student government treasurer, an achievement that he claims marked, “the long lasting start of [his] career in leadership positions.”
Along with 12 years of theater experience, Simmons took the skills and confidence that he developed in middle and high school and – with a strong influence from his residence assistants in Dante House – plunged into Residence Life.
“My RAs freshman year made being at Geneseo seem worth it, and I wanted to do that for someone else,” he said, adding that the job was an opportunity for him to focus on being a role model. He spent his sophomore year as an RA in Wayne Hall and relocated to Wyoming Hall the following year.
Simmons pinpointed Inter-Residence Council as one of his most enriching and valuable Geneseo experiences. Taking over as vice-chair of IRC in his sophomore and junior years, Simmons held the responsibility of overseeing leadership development in residence halls.
As vice-chair, Simmons designed three leadership conferences, one of which focused on bullying, a topic that he feels strongly about: “It’s important that students know that victims of bullying are being cared for,” he said. The project, which hosted speakers from the psychology department and Residence Life and worked with various faculty members and over 50 students, was something that Simmons said he felt was unique to Geneseo and also sustainable to the organization.
Simmons occupied himself otherwise helping other students as an Access Opportunity Programs peer tutor, representing students’ opinions on the Campus Auxiliary Services Board of Directors and ensuring student representation with his seat in the College Senate, along with his role in several committees such as the University Police Lieutenant Search Committee and the Student Conduct Board.
But Simmons put many of these dedications on the back burner this semester to focus on his main passion and goal dating back to kindergarten: teaching.
Simmons spent the first half of this semester at Gates-Chili Middle School teaching eighth graders, and now teaches ninth and 10th grade global studies at Mount Morris High School where he uses his experiences at Geneseo to enhance his role as an educator. “You’re more than just someone who delivers content to students,” he said. “An educator needs to be willing to learn from students and needs to understand that they are mentors, advisors and sometimes friends.”
Although he put his activities on hold, a 9-to-5 job keeps Simmons busy, and he compared teaching 24 teenagers to being on stage. “I enjoy the rush,” he said. “But it’s also terrifying; I’m conquering a fear every time I’m in front of an audience.”
Graduation hype, he said, was always a laughing matter, something he could never empathize with. Yet with his final semester coming to a close, Simmons admits that he might understand now. In May, Simmons will say farewell to Geneseo with a three-page résumé that just barely reflects his time here.
As for next year, Simmons doesn’t know what will come next, but he’s crossing his fingers for graduate school, an internship or a full-time teaching job. “I’m scared, not because I think I won’t do well, but because I don’t know what comes next,” he said. “The unknown is thrilling, but somewhat scary.”