On March 31, Brandeis SSSP (Student Support Service Program) celebrated its 25th anniversary with its largest event of the year called “I Am A Movement.” The event featured guest speakers Cesar Pineda ’16, alumnus Daniel Acheampong ’11, Interim President Lisa Lynch and SSSP director Jennifer Morazes, along with a performance by nationally recognized singer/songwriter Kevin So.
The SSSP’s student leadership representatives, Ana Chavez ’18 and Angel Cruz ’17, opened the night with an overview of what would be happening at the event and then introduced Kevin So. Hailing from Cambridge, MA, Kevin So has achieved great success in his music career, having debuted on Fox’s TV show “Big Break” in the 1990s, opening for artists like Joe Cocker, Billy Bragg, Randy Newman and Robben Ford after moving to Chicago in 1999. He moved to Nashville in 2009 and has since toured internationally with the KEB MO BAND. So’s musical style lies in the blues and folk domain, drawing much inspiration from renowned artists like Bob Dylan. At the SSSP event, So performed songs about the immigrant experience, a topic close to his heart as his parents were immigrants from China. He even invited the audience to sing along, which they happily obliged to, with his song “Brighter Days.” Kevin So both opened and concluded the night with his amazing performances, even giving out free autographed CDs after the show.
The four speakers each delivered important messages as well, which were empowering, introspective and inspiring. Cesar Pineda was first up to speak and told the audience of his experience at Brandeis—his journey to graduation as an Fine Arts major, his study abroad in Japan, how SSSP supported him through it and, most importantly, how his parents have shaped who he is today, comparing them to the cherry blossom tree of Japan.
Another powerful speaker was alumnus Daniel Acheampong ’11, who gave a passionate speech about self-confidence and how everyone has the ability to reach their dreams. He talked about his career as Brandeis, such as serving as the first African American President of the Student Union and being a Posse Scholar. He also spoke about where he is now: an associate at Summit Partners, a private equity firm with over $6.5 billion of active investment capital in growth equity investments. As a native of Ghana, though raised in Brooklyn, NY, Daniel also touched upon the immigrant experience and how it has made him stronger and more motivated to reach his goals. He left the crowd with the most important message of the event, and what is also this year’s theme for SSSP: We all have the potential to start a movement in the world.
Interim President Lisa Lynch presented outstanding statistics for Brandeis’ Student Support Services Program, regarding its nature as a TRIO program, one of the handful of college programs around the nation to receive funding in order to support first generation and culturally diverse students in their higher education, and also that the graduation rate of SSSP students is significantly higher (virtually 100 percent) than that of students outside the program. With such positive information about the program, its members must surely be proud to belong to such an encouraging and outstanding community.
Director Jennifer Morazes then gave out awards to past directors of SSSP, acknowledging their hardwork in making the program as wonderful as it is today. However, even after the speeches concluded, there was still another surprise in store for the night. Pineda, Yeng Her ’16 and other members of SSSP then unveiled a mural that symbolized the fundamental beliefs and nature of SSSP. The painting was on a large canvas and illustrated two hands gently cupped around a sakura (cherry blossom) tree. The background was of a tranquil twilight, the soft fading yellows of the sun melting away into the cool hues of night sky. Undoubtedly, the mural expressed SSSP’s core goal to support and nurture the growth of its students.
SSSP’s final event in its 25th anniversary celebration was a great success, and many current SSSP members were there to join in on the festivity, not to mention that the food served was quite delicious as well. Brandeis’s TRIO Student Support Services Program is one of the most wonderful assets to the university, as it succeeds in helping its students achieve their goals and overcome any obstacle.