URBANA — A junior from Chicago has been elected as the student body president at the University of Illinois.
Damani Bolden, who will be installed as president of the Illinois Student Senate next week, said a love of politics drove him to run for the position.
"It's just something I was born to do. I love to serve people and I love education. In student government, the two merge together," he said.
Bolden grew up in the Wrightwood neighborhood of Chicago and is a graduate of Lindblom Math and Science Academy. He also was student body president at Lindblom and his elementary school.
He currently is a student in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Bolden is believed to be the third African-American president of the student senate.
"It is my hope I will be remembered for the things I get accomplished, that my ethnicity is a footnote to that legacy," Bolden said.
For the campus, he said the election of an African-American to the post "shows the progression of the campus and students here, especially in my age group, in terms of race relations. ... We value people for who they are and what they bring to the table. Race plays a role ... but it is not a factor of how we judge people's skill sets."
As student body president, Bolden said one of his goals is to enhance outreach with students "so they feel more comfortable coming to us with problems."
He also plans to help student senators improve their leadership skills.
"One of my goals as president is to foster leaders by engaging in leadership workshops with the Illinois Leadership Center so they have the necessary tools and skills not just to be campus leaders but leaders in future workplaces as well," Bolden said.
Other goals include making the student senate more transparent, including its budget and budgeting process.
Bolden has been a student senator for two terms and served on several different student committees on campus. He also is involved in the TALKS Mentoring Program and sings with the UI Black Chorus. Bolden is a previous student member of the Chicago Board of Education.
Editor's note: Based on Illinois Student Senate information, an April 13 article incorrectly reported that Damani Boden was the first black person elected as student-body president at the University of Illinois. According to recent research conducted by University Archives, a black student named Frederick Ford served as president of the student Senate during the spring semester of 1948, and Herbert Lassiter, another black man, was president in 1956.