It’s 7:40 a.m. on the Friday of the first week of school, and I am sitting in the senior lounge working on my college applications, when I hear, “Hey Mackensie.”
Looking up, the first thing I see is red hair, and then it hits me that I have an interview with none other than 2016-2017 SGA president, Sam Rollins. While I’ve forgotten about the interview less than 12 hours after confirming it via Facebook, Sam has remembered. He’s on top of it. But doesn’t he always have to be?
As we start the interview, Sam pulls out his laptop and starts typing, even as I begin asking the questions. “Sorry, I just need to finish this,” he says, finishing his work. Who can blame him for working at this hour in the morning? He does have a lot of duties, after all.
Sam, who has been at Lovett since sixth grade, had wanted to run for SGA president ever since freshman year. “I always wanted to be the guy on the podium every Monday morning and try to make the students feel better about going to school. I guess I just wanted to lead the student body,” he says.
Leadership isn’t something unfamiliar to Sam. Last year, he was on the Student Athletic Advisory Board, where he took part in discussing the role Lovett athletics should play in students’ lives at school.
When Sam found out he was elected, he was thrilled. He and his family even celebrated at dinner. Sam thought that he had a pretty good chance at winning just because a lot of people knew him. He also stressed in the assembly that he wanted to make the freshmen as comfortable as possible, so he thinks that contributed to him winning.
In order to ease his transition to president, Sam has gotten tons of advice from people around the Lovett community, including Mr. Peebles, who has been a “big help.” Ms. Moss encouraged Sam to take a leadership course over the summer and met with him a few times.
Sam also spoke with his grandfather, who is a pretty big role model in his life, about leading by example. “The best leader is one that doesn’t boss people around,” his grandfather told him, “but instead leads by example and listens to his peers.”
To ease the transition between SGA administrations, Sam sat down last spring with former president, Evan Mercer, to talk about Sam’s role and the do’s and don’ts of morning assemblies. Sam considers Evan’s best piece of advice to be allowing for the unpredictable, and that time is not his friend. “You either have too much or too little time in morning assembly so you need to learn to plan around [it],” Sam says.
Sam hasn’t had too much practice with the morning assemblies quite yet, so he is a little nervous for them each Monday morning. He is looking forward to getting in there and playing music and making everyone feel a little better about Monday morning. “Hopefully I can make people laugh by doing something, but I just don’t know what yet. But yeah, you can say I am a little nervous,” he says.
What does help is that Sam gets a break during assembly when the Ultras leaders, Harriet Knox and Ned Feininger, come up to do the sports announcements. Since last year, the leaders of the Ultras read the sports announcements at morning assembly instead of the president. Sam is super excited to have them alongside him on the stage. “They’re great Ultras leaders and have been pretty communicative with me, which I thank them for,” Sam says.
There are a few things Sam plans to work on this year, but one of his priorities is to make sure that the first Wednesday of every month is a guaranteed late start day. “I think it worked out for the students and the teachers, and if I can, I want to bring it back, but I think it’s a matter of being able to,” he says.
One of the challenges Sam believes he will face is not getting what he wants. This is a problem because sometimes students end up blaming him for what goes wrong in the Upper School, but he can only do so much.
Not only does Sam want everyone to get to know him better, but he also really wants to form a relationship with the freshmen. Being a freshman can be tough, and Sam wants the freshmen to feel included and comfortable in Upper School as soon as possible. “It’s okay to be nervous about high school,” he says. “I think freshman year is the toughest, but after that it gets better. So keep your head up.”
Something you can expect to hear from Sam after every morning meeting is Sam’s phrase for the year: “Have fun out there.” He says school is so stressful and feels like a big competition at times, which is not something he feels like high school is about. He thinks everyone needs to stop thinking of high school as a chore and not as an opportunity. “It can be pretty fun if you ease up and meet new people,” he says.
As we finish up the meeting, Sam gathers up his things and heads off to advisory. Or maybe to another meeting. Who knows? He’s always on the run, but also having fun.