In high school, I was one of 753 in my graduating class. I wasn’t on a team, I wasn’t in any clubs, no one knew who I was; I was a number.
Coming in to college, I prepared to get heavily involved to prevent high school from happening all over again. I went through all the motions.
I joined a sorority and ended up dropping. I tried intramural volleyball and got hit in the face. I wanted to be a STAR, but was rejected.
I wanted to feel passionate about something like my “sisters” did welcoming me home on bid day. I aimed to feel excited about something where I had a role.
I was left with a desire to write and found The Scout. While writing weekly articles gave me something to do and got me involved, I still felt absent on Bradley’s campus. I was missing something.
Then, I saw it. In tiny little letters on the bottom of a “Hilltop Happenings” email.
“Bradley Red Sea informational meeting tonight.” So, I went.
A room full of mostly sports communication seniors seemed surprised when a freshman girl wandered into the room.
I was quickly greeted and accepted as the girl who wore the over-the-top red jumpsuit to the volleyball games. It was almost as if the spirit I lacked in high school followed me to Bradley and came out five times stronger.
Every athletics event had little to no attendance, which made it hard to remain cheerful. Still, I was committed to the table times and dorm storms to market each event hoping one day I could secure a leadership position and change the program.
I knew that when I was in charge things would be different.
No one understood why I dropped my sorority. I didn’t really get it either, I just knew I didn’t seem to be getting out of it what the other girls were. Although I had The Scout and Red Sea, I was afraid I still wouldn’t have my “group.” My “squad,” or “ride-or-dies” if you will.
Two years went by and I moved up. Each year I gained more responsibility and made more of a difference. My friends were now the athletes I supported and the feelings were mutual. Though my name didn’t show up on the official rosters, I had found my “team.”
Now being a senior, things have paid off. There’s something special about the people you’ve spent years cheering for, turning around and returning the support.
I knew I’d left my mark at Bradley during the 2018 homecoming soccer game when we had the biggest crowd the Shea Brigade had ever seen. I knew I was doing the right thing when the men’s basketball team had more fans on a Thursday night Division III exhibition game than multiple conference games from previous years combined.
I knew I was making a difference when the organization I became president of recruited more members to join in the first week than any other year and when shortly after that, it became the largest organization at Bradley.
Walking around on campus, I’m not sure if I’m getting the “recognition” I thought would come with being as involved as I am. I feel support from the people I surround myself with even if that’s just cheering on “that Red Sea girl” as she misses free throws at halftime or waves posters around.
It’s been almost four years, and even though a lot of people still might not know who I am, I’ve found my place here, and that beats feeling like a number any day.