University Park, IL,
09:48 AM

GSU Student Goes Professional With Advocacy

As a student at Governors State University, Mychael Vanarsdale has had some big moments. There was that time in 2014 when he was elected a student senator, then there was that day in April of 2015 when he became Student Senate president. Of course, addressing over 300 people at the #SaveHigherEd rally that he helped organize on campus—that was a big moment, too. Oh, and Jesse Jackson—don’t forget about the time he met Reverend Jesse Jackson at GSU and got invited to speak the next day at Rainbow PUSH headquarters.

“The energy (at Rainbow PUSH) was heavy. Everybody there has a lot to say in terms of social issues. It was a good experience to be around individuals who have the same passion and fight in them for a cause,” he said.

On Saturday, May 14, Vanarsdale graduates from GSU with a Bachelor’s degree in Media Communications, and on Monday, May 17, he begins his professional journey in activism as a member of Young Invincibles, a grassroots advocacy organization with Midwest headquarters in downtown Chicago. Newly-graduated Vanarsdale will have had less than 48 hours between the ceremony and starting his career. This might be the definition of commencing.

"I'm extremely excited," Vanarsdale said. "The work I'll do with Young Invincibles will help millennials in low income and underserved communities come out and share their voices, let their voices be heard. I want to deliver the message to people that you have to vote, you have to get involved. It's so simple, but I think some people ignore it. Research your ballot, vote, then stay engaged."

As an Organizing Fellow, Vanarsdale said he'll be setting up forums and panels for the 2016 election, although Young Invincibles doesn't endorse any particular candidate. The whole point is to motivate others to become involved in the politics and policies that shape everyday life.

"I want to be a positive and helpful part in making every system better. There's a lack of jobs, a lack of creation of jobs, and it's disconcerting. I want to encourage people to go to school and help change the system so that we can have faith in the system," he said. 

Vanarsdale said that he wasn't always this motivated.

"I wasn't the best student freshman and sophomore year, but when I got into student government and started having my voice heard directly, I realized that I wanted to make an impact on this campus in this town. Maybe those are lofty ideas, but I wanted to be a positive role model, particularly for the black males students. I can see myself in them," the soon-to-be graduate said.

Vanarsdale hopes to eventually use his media training to make films.

"I will continue to advocate and lobby, but my big picture is to get out there and makes films. Social justice documentaries," he said. "I think I've made a 180 in activism. I was really skeptical in my younger years, thinking that I couldn't make a change. I think in terms, now, of having a big voice."