I think we have something in common. 

At its core, the human spirit thrives on connection, on the shared experiences that bind us together, regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs. It is this inherent desire for unity and mutual support that brings us here today.

At the heart of Yale University lies an opportunity for profound transformation that is not confined to the intellectual rigor of classrooms or the competitive spirit of athletic fields. It extends to the very fabric of our community’s well-being. Celene Bennett and I are running for President and Vice President of the Yale College Council, or YCC, with a vision for an environment that reimagines the YCC’s role in fostering a campus where every student thrives. It’s called “Connecting Yale.”

The essence of this vision is rooted in the understanding that our strength lies in our unity, health and support of one another. Connecting Yale is about recognizing that the challenges we face are not just individual struggles but collective opportunities to come together and uplift one another. “Connecting Yale” is a call to action and a plea for empathy. It is a vision that sees beyond the immediacy of academic deadlines. It is a vision that aspires to create a Yale where every student feels supported, valued and connected.

One cornerstone of this vision is improving academic policies to reflect a deep understanding of the challenges students face. As a YCC Senator, I learned how to properly engage with the Yale Administration to create tangible change by leading the YCC’s effort in advocating for Dean’s Extensions policies to explicitly include mental health conditions. This policy was not just an administrative change; it was a statement. Yale must value the mental well-being of its students more than their academic achievements​​.

In the past, Yale has instituted financial barriers to accessing healthcare services, especially during hours when the veil of night makes every challenge seem more daunting. The Healthcare Transportation Reimbursement Program is one way I’ve addressed this. By ensuring that every student can afford transportation to Yale Health and nearby hospitals, this program is not just facilitating medical access; it is cultivating a caring community that extends a helping hand when it’s needed most​​.

The Wellness Cabinet program that Celene and I have piloted is a testament to our proactive approach toward student health. By providing immediate access to basic health supplies, these cabinets are more than mere repositories of medical goods; they are symbols of a community’s commitment to its members’ well-being, ensuring that no student is left unaided.

Another critical initiative of mine is the creation of a MENA Space Student Advisory Committee. Working alongside members of the Cultural and Religious Policy team, I have and will continue to push for Middle Eastern and North African student voices to be incorporated into the MENA space’s planning. Although the Yale administration has already created an advisory committee on MENA and Muslim Student Life, the Yale administration seems open to the idea. But further collaboration between the future YCC President and Vice President and MENA leadership on campus is essential to keep our momentum going and ensure a thriving space that adapts to the communities being served.

Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the initiatives spearheaded under this vision aim to create a cascade of positive changes throughout Yale. In every corner of our campus, let these ripples merge into a current that ushers in an era where safety and health are not just assured but seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. The tangible improvements in academic regulations, access to transportation, health resources and cultural and religious support present the first steps toward cultivating an environment where every student knows they belong, every challenge is met with a supportive community, and every victory is celebrated together.

As we look towards the summer and the remainder of our time at Yale, let us embrace this vision with hope, determination and a shared commitment to each other. We must demand that the YCC be a vessel for change, one that guides Yale towards a future where every student flourishes. Together, we can make Yale a place where every student cultivates an unbreakable bond with their community, one that stands united in the face of challenges and is relentless in its pursuit of well-being for all.

JUAN BORREGO is a sophomore in Silliman College running for YCC Vice President. Contact him at juan.borrego@yale.edu.