One day you will look back and see that all along you were blooming. — Morgan Harpers Nichols
Let’s talk about starting a student organization in college. First of all, it was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve done so far. When I got to college, I wanted to be a new version of myself– a boss. The thing is, I’ve never held any kind of leadership position before presiding over our S&S. Unless being the eldest sibling and the head of the family praise dance group counts. Shoot, I barely participated in any clubs in high school. I had no idea how any of this stuff worked, but I was up for the challenge of carving out a space for young, Black women pursuing healthcare careers. I did my research and built a pretty solid foundation on how to lead, the basics of student organizations, and the criteria for starting one at my own school.
In the first year or so of S&S becoming an official organization, there were a lot of setbacks. We also saw a lot of success. There were times when I wanted to quit, hand my position over to someone else. However, I feel like I would’ve done myself a huge disservice by just giving up.
How it all started
I remember Spring 2017, sitting in one of my electives with my friends when we decided to start Sisters and Stethoscopes (S&S). One of our male classmates gave a presentation on how he planned to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. During the presentation, he mentioned something about an organization for Black men pursuing careers in medicine. As he continued to share, I thought “this is it, we have to do this”. It was like the kick in the behind that I needed. At the end of class, my classmates and I pretty much decided that we were going to go ahead and take the leap. By the end of that day, we started a Group Me for a few of the ladies in our Acceleration cohort that expressed interest in our newly birthed club.
Making something out of nothing
We spent that Summer coming up with our mission, our club colors, and planning events. Coming up with a name for our organization was a challenge in itself. After taking a vote (yay for democracy), we finally settled on Sisters and Stethoscopes. As the blogger out of the bunch, I naturally took responsibility for our branding. We chose pink and black for our colors, I picked the emojis we’d use as a signature on our social media posts, and our logo. I used my (very limited) graphic design skills to create flyers and graphics for our Instagram page as well. I felt like we were off to a good start, all we needed to do at this point was to get approved by the school in order to be official. In August 2017, we were approved and that’s when the real work began.
A few bumps along the way
Our Vice-President reached out to one of our pre-health advisors because we needed someone to help guide us through this thing. Unlike me, our VP, one of my best friends, had leadership experience. However, there’s nothing like building your own organization from the ground up. During our first meeting with our advisor, I realized there was so much work left to do. Although we knew that we wanted to be a pre-health organization for Black women, we had no clear direction. The responsibilities of each e-board member were unclear and we didn’t have any membership guidelines. This was a recipe for disorganization and lack of membership retention.
To make matters worse, we didn’t receive any funding for our first year. We only charged $5 for membership dues per semester, so we didn’t have much to work with when it came to funding events. There were times when we (the e-board members) had to pay for things out of our own pockets. Not gonna lie, I felt like I was failing as a president. I took the time I needed to sulk and reflect. After that, my team and I went back to the drawing board.
During Summer 2018, we decided to revamp everything. We looked at the things we thought we failed at and addressed those first. As I said earlier, we struggled to build a strong membership base so we created a membership application and finally established membership guidelines. Just in case we didn’t receive any funding, we raised our dues to $30 a year (included a t-shirt). We collaborated with other organizations, established an annual feminine hygiene drive, and was finally in a position to offer our members more than we could the year before.
All good things come to an end
Needless to say, our second year was much better than the first, but I was no longer having fun. Sending out weekly emails, creating flyers, and managing our social media accounts felt like a full-time job. You know, once things stop being enjoyable, it’s probably time to let somebody else step up. In the end, I’ve grown so much by stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things that I had only ever daydreamed about. Now, after two years of hard work, Sisters and Stethoscopes continues to thrive. We elected a new executive board last semester, and I can’t wait to see the club grow even more now that we’ve got some fresh faces in there. If you’re looking to start your own student organization, go for it. I can say that the good times definitely outweighed all the rough times.