Focus on News
Chestertown Woman Faces Fear, Becomes Leader
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
WYE MILLS Few people face their inner fears head-on, and even fewer do it by age 20. Erica Wefelmeyer is one of those rare people.
"I was unbelievably shy when I was in high school," said Wefelmeyer, a Chestertown resident who graduates next month from Chesapeake College. " If you had told me a few years ago that I would be a student president who has to do public speaking and run meetings, I wouldn’t have believed it."
Rather than just attend classes and stay out of the limelight at Chesapeake College, the Kent County High School graduate chose to get involved in the Chesapeake College Student Government Association (SGA). In her first office she was the recording secretary, a fairly comfortable role for a shy person. But last year she decided to take on the toughest challenge of all and run for president.
As president of the SGA, Wefelmeyer represents the student body to the college administration and then takes the administration’s message back to the students.
She said each speaking assignment or public appearance involves much preparation.
" I have to organize my thoughts first and try to put what I think I need to say on paper. That helps me feel prepared. Then I try to control my nerves the best I can. Finally, I tell myself I can do what I need to do. I just do whatever it takes to get through each experience," Wefelmeyer said.
Chesapeake College President Stuart Bounds said that Wefelmeyer has done an exemplary job of leading the student body through this active year of celebrating Chesapeake’s 40th birthday.
"Both the Board of Trustees members and I are consistently impressed with Erica’s leadership and professionalism," said Dr. Bounds. "She is a great advocate on behalf of her fellow students."
Though she says she is still shy, Erica has risen to tasks that most students her age do not tackle. Speaking to current and prospective students is only part of the job, according to the student president. Wefelmeyer said the most daunting public speaking duty is reporting to the Chesapeake College Board of Trustees at monthly meetings.
"The Board members and the Chesapeake administrators are all nice people, but it can be intimidating to talk in front of such accomplished people who are in positions of power. I realized early on that all I can do is be myself and do my best," Wefelmeyer said.
Wefelmeyer’s low-key style is a change from that of previous SGA presidents, but it has served her and the student body well, Chesapeake officials said.
"Erica is naturally reserved and doesn’t draw a lot of attention to herself. She has a quiet leadership, but she is very effective. She’s proactive, she researches issues and she seeks input from her fellow students," said Director of Student Activities Amy Childs. "Her leadership isn’t driven by her personality and that style makes for a thoughtful leader who puts a premium on representing the students."
Childs said that Wefelmeyer is especially good at determining the students’ needs and pulling together diverse opinions.
"When someone presents an idea or plan to Erica, she studies it carefully and then works to get feedback from other students. She chooses to do this rather than consider something on her own and just make a decision. She truly represents the students in every decision she makes," Childs said.
A business major, Wefelmeyer plans to transfer to Salisbury University after earning her Chesapeake degree next month.
"I don’t know if I’ll be active in student government after I transfer, but I’ve learned many skills that I can use later on in my life. I think leading the SGA here is one of those experiences that will help me in instances throughout my life," Wefelmeyer said. "At the very least, the experience was a good personal challenge for me. Anytime you can face your fears you build a little more faith in yourself and your own abilities. I can’t imagine a better skill than that."
If there is inaccurate information on this page,
please send correction or comments to: Marcie Molloy