COLUMBIA — Call I-77 a pipeline to democracy.
The interstate is sending student leaders to the state’s largest school by the handful. Handfuls that include an inordinate amount from the Fort Mill School District.
“It's no coincidence Fort Mill is ‘taking over’ USC,” said Lauren Harper, recently appointed chief of staff to the student body president. “I attribute a portion of the leader I am today to attending Fort Mill schools, where I was well-prepared for my experiences in college.”
In February the University of South Carolina held elections for student government positions. Lindsay Richardson, a Clover High School grad from Lake Wylie, won a three-way contest to become student body president. Fort Mill resident Donnie Iorio, a Nation Ford High School grad, took the vice presidency. Richardson appointed Tega Cay resident Harper, a Fort Mill High grad, as her chief of staff. For deputy chief of staff Richardson chose Nation Ford alum Forrest Holloman from Fort Mill.
Iorio, a junior majoring in global supply chain operations management and marketing, isn’t surprised to see his hometown so well represented.
“My leadership skills and experience started while in the Fort Mill School District,” he said.
Iorio showed up in Columbia with a resume in hand. He’d already served as national vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America. Since enrolling, he’s had two terms as national president of Phi Beta Lambda, the collegiate division of FBLA, and leadership roles with the Newman Club (Catholic students). He was chief justice of the school’s Constitutional Council.
Now Iorio will facilitate discussion between faculty or administration on behalf of more than 30,000 students. He’ll also lead the Student Senate, a group of 50 students.
“It is extremely important our student government takes actions which will directly effect our student body,” Iorio said. “It is my top priority to develop more grassroots efforts to find what is really important to our students.”
Harper, a sophomore public relations major and marketing minor, says every new student administration comes in with grand plans. She’s confident the incoming group can leave the university a better place.
“We all love this university so much, and we know we can help to make it a place that not only does good for its students, but its community as well,” Harper said. “I hope to leave an impact on Carolina by doing good and inspiring others to do the same.”
Harper served as secretary of multicultural affairs in the outgoing administration. That experience gave her “a lot more insight on diversity and inclusion,” which she hopes will serve her well in the new role. She’ll also lean heavily on what she and other student leaders learned in Fort Mill.
“I had such great teachers, faculty and classmates that not only pushed me to be my best, but also inspired me to have an impact on my school and community,” Harper said.
Holloman is a freshman business major. It’s “slightly uncommon” for a first-year student to be appointed deputy chief of staff, he said, but student service isn’t something new to him. He briefly served as secretary of dining, a cabinet position at the school.
“I found my true passion for student government at Nation Ford High School serving as student body president my senior year,” Holloman said. “I also attribute my interest in student leadership to serving as the state president of the South Carolina Future Business Leaders of America.”
Holloman got his foot in the door by working on Iorio’s vice president campaign. Holloman met Richardson who later appointed him to the post. Now he’ll assist and advise in launching projects Richardson wants, and will represent her office in meetings she can’t attend. He’ll work with a cabinet of 20 students.
“Our goal as a team is to successfully further projects the last term officers started and hopefully begin new projects that will benefit the students of our Carolina community,” Holloman said.
At almost 32,000 students, the University of South Carolina is the largest school in the state.
John Marks • 803-831-8166