By Morgan Bradley
The Scene staff
Forest Park’s Student Government Association normally has nine members. This summer, it has one.
His name is Chester Henderson, and he was the only student who expressed an interest in running in the spring election.
“We only received one application, so the election was rescheduled for the fall,” said Donovan Foster, Campus Life manager and SGA adviser.
One problem was that most SGA members from last academic year graduated in the spring.
Anderson became SGA president this summer and will continue in that position this fall because he was vice president last academic year.
“Joining the SGA has developed my leadership skills,” said Henderson, a human services major.
The SGA is an elected board that provides a “vehicle for communication” between Forest Park students and administrators and plans programs and activities on campus.
Elections are held once a year in the spring. Some 600 to 800 students normally vote.
Former SGA member Angela Johnson blames low enrollment for low interest in the last election. Spring enrollment was 5,036, down from 8,823 in the fall of 2011.
Another problem with SGA elections is that many students don’t even know when they’re being held.
“Forest Park needs to put a greater effort into getting students motivated to run for and to vote in the elections,” Johnson said.
Another issue may be the SGA application process. Some students feel they don’t have time to fill out the form, let alone attend meetings and take on other responsibilities.
Foster acknowledges that the application process is “high stakes” and that it may deter some students from getting involved.
“But this also helps us to weed people out who are not prepared to handle the responsibilities that come along with joining SGA,” he said.
Henderson has been attending Forest Park about three years. He’s a familiar face on campus, standing out partly because of his 15 or 16 tattoos. (He can’t remember the exact number.)
Henderson first enrolled at Forest Park just to “get away.” “I never thought I’d be job-oriented,” he said.
Henderson wants to become a juvenile counselor and advocate for troubled youths in the court system. He prefers not to give details on his own past but notes that his life experiences have prepared him for the career.
“I realized I need to use my life to help others, to tell the youth there are other options than to sell drugs,” he said.
Beyond SGA, Anderson works in the Campus Life office. Co-worker Byron Keaton jokes about him being an “annoying big brother,” but he respects him.
“His work ethic is impeccable,” Keaton said. “He is the first to be in the office and last to leave.”
Keaton also recalls times when Henderson has been the only Forest Park SGA member to attend St. Louis Community College board meetings.
“He wanted to be hands on with all student causes,” Keaton said.
Jasmine Armstrong, another Campus Life employee, describes Henderson as persistent and dedicated.
Applications for new SGA members will be available Aug. 22. An election will be held in the fall.
“We will be doing more promotion next semester,” Foster said. “We will also be seeking recommendations from students and staff.”
Henderson, who’s looking forward to seeing new faces on SGA, speaks highly of St. Louis Community College and its effect on his life.
“It has given me the opportunity to further my education,” he said.