Eastern Kentucky University’s newly-elected student body president, Eyouel Mekonnen, is the first international student ever elected to the position. He moved from Ethiopia to Kentucky in 2016. He is also the first Black student body president EKU has seen in more than 40 years.
“It reminds me every single day that we can’t wait another 40 years. We have to set up systems of excellence and programs that help our underpopulated students to succeed,” he said.
Mekonnen said he has dreamt of becoming president since his first year at EKU when the Student Government Association (SGA) booth captured his interest.
“I never want another student to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of joining the Student Government Association,” he said.
He ran for and won a seat as a student senator, and worked his way up from there. His sophomore and junior years he served as the Director of Diversity in the Executive Office of the President.
“I remember the moment I found out that I had won the student senator seat my freshman year,” said Mekonnen, “And I told myself at that moment that I would be the best student senator that I can be.”
Mekonnen and his vice president Nick Kiong ran their campaign on four core values that they plan to implement throughout their term. Those values include: Student Rights, Sustainability, Mental Health Awareness and Advocacy, and Mental Health as a whole.
“We are in the business of building a system that will become a legacy of excellence,” he said.
“If I, an African immigrant who moved here five years ago, can run for student body president and win. Then the students who are coming in from our international community, our appalachian community, our communities that are primarily of color who are saying ‘Let me just try college out for maybe one semester and see how it goes’ can see that this is possible,” said Mekonnen, “I want them to see that if they truly put their mind and soul into it, they can achieve everything they set out to do.”
Mekonnen is a senior English and Political Science major and plans to graduate in May of 2021. After graduation, he plans to continue his education by obtaining a master’s degree.