It’s July, which means it’s time for the changing of the guard at De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU). The elected incoming officers officially have their feet under the table and are approaching the end of their first month in office. But what will they be doing to represent students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) over the next academic year? In this opening story of a series focusing on DSU, we catch up with the new Vice President Welfare and Community, Jessica Okwuonu.
“I just want to make people happy,” said Jessica Okwuonu a student who struggled to express a smile herself during a testing first year at De Montfort University, Leicester (DMU).
Three years on she could do nothing but smile as she beamed with sheer delight of winning over the electorate of 24,000 DMU students to become De Montfort Students’ Union’s (DSU) new Vice President Welfare and Community. “I’m so proud”, she said.
Jessica, an Information Communication Technology BSc (Hons) graduate opened up about failing her first year, but thanks to the superb support services DMU has to offer, was able to turn things around and come back stronger.
Now, in her new role, she’s committed to ensuring other students don’t feel the same as she did and are fully aware of everything on offer here that will help students avoid any obstacles that fall in their way.
She said: “I met others going through the same as me, who needed support, but they had no idea where to go.
“It got me thinking about how many others could be in the same position as me, but don’t speak out and have no way of knowing that they can speak out.
“I ran in the elections for this role because I want students to know that their voices can be heard and that there are people here who can support them.”
Jessica has had a lot of experience of working in this field over the years and it is something she is extremely passionate about influencing.
Working in schools with DMU Square Mile, heading up a project called ‘Cheek2Cheek’ aimed at making people smile, offering kind gestures and offering mental health advice, Jessica’s done it all, but she’s not finished just yet.
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“I love working with people and making them smile”, she said.
“I’ve given people who are struggling my number and supported them where I can, even if that means going out at 2am in the morning if they just need someone to talk to.
“I want to bring positivity to the role and ensure students feel comfortable to come and chat to me for advice or point them in the right direction of other services.
“Before I came to Leicester, I lived in London and worked around getting youths off the streets and into rapping or other art forms to give them a better standard of life and enjoy themselves, which was so rewarding.”
Jessica will follow in the footsteps of Keira Rounsley who has held the position at DSU for the past two years and has worked relentlessly for the benefit of DMU’s student body.
With key successes around housing, #DMUpride and DMU’s Equality and Diversity strategy, Jessica will now take Keira’s place on important committees which will shape future initiatives to support student wellbeing.
Not only that, but alongside the other executive officers, she will represent students on faculty board meetings, ensuring DMU’s academic service remains ‘gold’ standard.
(Above) Jessica gets on stage to present an award at May's DSU Awards ceremony at Leicester City's King Power Stadium.
So what will Jessica be working on?
“I want to work with the university to find areas on campus you can sit down in to study and relax and are accessible 24 hours, especially close to exams and deadlines.
“I’m also keen to look at BME mental health and raising the awareness of services available for those students.
“One of the other big things I want to work towards is letting students be aware of how they can live on a budget. My parents taught me that when I was growing up and money saving is a big issue for students who don’t have a lot of money in the first place.
“So, I want to educate them on how to spend their money wisely.
“I’m pretty confident that I can build on a good relationship between DSU and the university and together I believe we can achieve our objectives of providing a safe, accessible and healthy DMU.”
Jessica, who went through so much difficulty to complete her studies, graduated last week. Securing her prestigious new role alongside the certificate she’s worked so hard for just proves that no matter what barriers you face at DMU, people are always there to help you break them down.
Follow Jessica’s time in office on the DSU website and get in touch with her on Twitter.
READ MORE: Head to DSU's website for their introduction to their new Vice President Welfare and Community.
Posted on Monday 24th July 2017