10 Questions with NCSA co-Presidents Ximena Pedroza and Kayla Kisseadoo
Catalyst reporter and Online Editor, Magdalene Taylor, sat down with recently elected NCSA co-Presidents and second-
years Kayla Kisseadoo and Ximena Pedroza. A shortened version of this interview appeared in print.
1. First question isn’t really a question, but tell me where you’re from and your AOC and your pronouns.
K: I am from Fort Lauderdale, my AOC is undecided, and my pronouns are she/her.
X: I am from Mexico, my pronouns are she/her, and my AOC is anthropology.
2. How did the two of you decide to run for co-presidency?
K: We became friends because we met via the forum when we were doing a rideshare for a protest in Tampa, and at that protest we were asked to go up to Standing Rock, ND to help out and bring up supplies on behalf of Black Lives Matter Tampa. So between the time we were told about this and the time we had to go up was about like five days, we were driving so we ended up spending a lot of time together and found out we had a good working relationship and were able to do things together.
X: Being able to go to a protest you already have similar ethics, and being able to come up with funding in such a short amount of time, we had really strong communication flow where we would look at each other and know what’s next.
3.What are your main priorities as co-Presidents?
K: The foundation of our entire platform is focusing on the spirit of New College – that is inclusive of everybody and meets everyone’s needs. Historically in the past…
X: In the past?
K: Currently, very much currently, there have been injustices on campus that are just unacceptable whether it’s amongst the student body or between the student body and administration and faculty and it’s kind of sad. It takes away from our spirit and who we are and the name that has been created, all that we are and our reputation and excellence. So that’s our main priority in all that we do. That’s the main foundation. As far as initiatives go –
X: There’s a lot of wedges being driven. There’s no communication, there’s no trust, there’s no community between and within our student body and between administration, faculty and staff. There’s no community – we rarely attend each other’s events. So we’re going to try and focus on that with community building events that are geared towards everybody, and bringing the community of Sarasota inwards, bringing a lot of the amazing people of Sarasota to New College and also have the student body exit the bubble. Students are only going to be here for so long and there’s so much they can get out of Sarasota… We’re really focused on diversity, because this school lacks diversity in every sense. From students, to staff, to faculty, there’s no diversity and if there is, there’s very little diversity. So we’re going to try and work on that, because of the growth plan we’re going to be getting. It’s going to be a really big growth not only with buildings but student population wise, and we don’t want to grow where we become more white, we want to grow where we become more diverse. We want to showcase students with different backgrounds to really create this diverse and unique melting pot of student experiences. So we’re going to work on developing with Autumn, or CDI, Head of Campus Diversity and Inclusion, on diversity tracking mechanisms so we can tracking student statistics. The school can say they’re getting more diverse but if there’s no statistics to back that… How many initiatives have they put out, focused on the diverse community of Sarasota high school students? How much effort is put out to reach those students? How many scholarship opportunities are we offering? That’s something Paul and Miles started, and now we want to institutionalize that with the More than Marginal scholarship.
K: We also want to establish a community garden at Booker where New College students will help build a food garden at Booker. We want food forest Fridays, a music festival in the Food Forest every month, just community things where we can actually hang out with each other.
X: We need to be able to mingle with our peers in a non-academic setting, in a non-stressful, classroom setting. Not in that typical “We’re all studying for finals in Four Winds” way but in a relaxed, take-a-breather way where you can focus on making a bond with students between cohorts. We see upper year students tend to pull away from campus, and we want to provide a space for upper year students to relax and enjoy and not get overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, because that tends to happen in the intense, academically rigorous setting that we live in.
K: Taco Tuesdays.
X: Yes, Taco Tuesdays. We’re working on bringing the local community inward by having a monthly Taco Tuesdays where we bring community caterers. It’s going to be a community event for faculty, staff, students and administration. We primarily want to focus on local family businesses from POCs.
4. Non-academically, what are some of your interests?
K: I’m a stand-up comedian, so everything revolving around that I guess you could say are my interests. I enjoy being outside, talking to plants, writing things down… I would describe my own personal style [of stand-up] as a mix between Kate McKinnon and Will Ferrell and Dave Chappelle, that’s where I get my inspiration from.
X: Dog videos, food…
K: She talks about food a lot. She’s a really good dancer.
X: Oh yeah, I dance, that’s right. I’m in Dance Collective and I’m a Dance Administrator. It’s really funny because I started dancing because I lived in Mexico and I had two left feet and I could not dance. My mom was like “Oh my God, this child of mine can not dance,” so yeah she sent me to ballet and now I can dance. Believe in yourself, and you can dance like Xime… you can always find me dancing at Walls. Besides that, I really like to eat, I really like to talk about food… café con leche, pastelitos, churros, tacos.
5. What’s your go-to Four Winds order?
K: We both order the same thing! A pantangle with no onions on a croissant.
X: It’s so good, that’s always what we get.
6. What’s your favorite thing about New College?
K: My favorite thing about New College is that it’s literally just this beacon for people that are so amazing. It’s like this sanctuary… I’ve met my closest friends here, my life has changed. The spirit of New College has infected me so hard and I’m so in love with everything, everything that we do, how weird everyone is, it’s so nice to feel like you can express and be as you are… The fact that you can come here and have an experience and it’s not going to be like anyone else’s experience because it’s so unique. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a really amazing place.
X: At this school you’re really shaken to your core as a first year because you learn so many things. It’s a very big shock about how much you learn about gender, sexuality, culture, cultural exchange… growing up, sometimes you know of it, but you can’t really pinpoint what it is. At least for me it happened when I got here. I feel like that’s why it can be hard for people to find their place here because they’re awakened to so much. This school shows you all of the injustices with different issues not only on this campus but in this country and in the world. That’s one of the things I really love about it, how much we educate our students non-academic wise. Just people to people and their conflict and struggles. A lot of students that I’ve met here are willing to have dialogue and willing to learn where at other schools, people don’t care. At my high school, no one cared about ableism or sexism or racism, they didn’t think that racism was a big thing, they thought reverse racism was real. More than anything, I’m grateful for how much we can embrace, going off what Kayla was saying, you can go full-out here and there’s no judgement, and if there is, it’s very little compared to outside New College. We have this very accepting student body, at times not as accepting but mostly very accepting and very loving student body. At times, it can be hard for others to see the love that other students have for each other, but it’s there. If you compare us to FSU, UF, our students really care about each other. We want to see each other succeed, we want to see each other be open and be themselves. Here, it’s a school where students can really embrace whatever they identify with, from their heritage to culture to sexuality or gender. Students can embrace their own true self without being afraid, being scared to do so, being afraid of what other people think. Students here are proud to showcase diversity.
7. What’s your favorite thing about each other?
K: I love how supporting and loving Ximena is in everything that I do. She always knows the right thing to say. She always knows where I’m at mentally. I guess I express it emotionally, but she very much can read into that, which I appreciate. I like that she understands that if I’m an asshole, there’s a lot of love there.
X: Ximena insert, she is the biggest asshole to me, out of everyone.
K: Because she’s the closest person to me! A lot of our relationship is very involved in work and there’s a lot of stress there. Her face reminds me of work. That’s why it’s important for us to have fun together! Anyway, I love how much energy she has all of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 a.m. or 2 in the afternoon, she’s bouncing off the walls all the time. She’s really pretty. She has an awesome dog named Luna. I love that Ximena is my friend.
X: For me, it would be how supportive Kayla is. I’ve never met a person that’s so self-centered and so egocentric but so selfless at the same time!
K: Yes, I’m a walking paradox, always! I haven’t actually heard someone say it, but now that it’s been said I’m like, damn, you’re right…
X: No because like, she’s egocentric to the point where she believes in herself, and it’s inspirational. I sometimes fall back and Kayla believes more in me than I believe in myself. So seeing that and seeing her believe in herself and her capabilities is really inspiring to myself. It’s like, okay, sometimes you can put the ego up front because sometimes I give too much to everyone else and there’s nothing for me left. Going back to how selfless she is, if you’re her friend, you don’t even need to tell her that you want her there and she’ll be there. Any time that you need her most, she knows. It’s like having a friend that will stop her whole world just to help you out if you’re having a day or having a moment. It’s incredible. As presidents, I know I can count on her. I love that she keeps me grounded. Sometimes I get overworked and too anxious, even though I know how to have fun. She reminds me that you can be silly, she tells me to take everything with a grain of salt.
K: Oh yeah, and Ximena has the biggest heart. Reminds me of my mom.
X: I am her mom, I’m her mom away from home.
8. Where do you see yourselves in five years?
X: Can we answer for each other?
K: In five years, Ximena is going to have a soccer team of kids, but all the kids are going to be so funny and have such big personalities. If Ximena is around them, they’re destined to have big amazing personalities. She’s going to be exactly the same, just running around with a megaphone, protesting with her soccer team of kids. Also probably just graduated from Harvard, despite having a soccer team of kids. PhD in something, policy and law.
X: Kayla is going to get into Harvard, but is going to choose not to go to elope with her dirt-worshiper of a future husband and live in the jungle. She’s going to be pregnant…
K: This is brutal.
X: She’s going to make a living out of going into town and being a comedian.
9. What is one thing you’re hoping to change at New College?
K: Bring back the harmony between everyone. Between students, faculty, administration. That love is very much being swept away. I want to remind everyone what New College is, what it should be, what it can be.
X: I think once we can refocus and get back that New College spirit, I want to focus on growing in the right direction and giving students everything they need to flourish, that we’re setting them up to succeed in any way they choose. I want to make sure our students grow and become amazing individuals. But also, to have a heart and realize we’re all human. I feel like students here can get too academically elite and tend to dehumanize issues in the world. As we grow and gain perspectives from more students, we have to realize that what some of us are studying is a reality of others. What you’re studying is a person, it’s a life.
10. Why are the two of you the best people to do the job?
K: That’s probably the easiest question, because of my ego. First of all, we’re both intelligent as heck. Our compatibility is so good, I can say anything to her and she can say anything to me. We’re badass. We have the same focus and vision and energy. We have such determination. I couldn’t do this on my own. Together we make a power team.
X: We love New College. We genuinely love what this school has done for us and other students. We love what New College can be. It’s a beacon of hope for many other institutions. It’s incredible, and while so many of us might disagree with administration and faculty at some point, New College is still an amazing school just by the student body. The students here are remarkable, kind-hearted individuals. We want to make sure every student has the opportunity to flourish. That’s why I think we’re the best people. Not only are we capable of handling anything that comes our way, we’re passionate and we’re going to fight for the students. If you know anything about us, students come first. What students say and bring to us as issues, we will work to fix them. Many of the initiatives that we have came after talking to students and thinking about how we can work on growing this school. Students should know that we’re fighting for students.