New freshman class president set to serve
“That night, Wednesday night, I was cringing, shaking, tapping on the table. 8:15 was creeping around, and I heard that at 8:30, you get the call. So it was 8:25 and I was nervous and it was the longest five minutes of my life.
“I was like all right, I’m gonna get the call, I’m ready for this, whether it’s good news or bad news, I’m going to embrace it. 8:31 hit, 8:40, 8:50.
“9:30 hit and I was like … all right, I guess they just forgot about me. I lost so bad they forgot I was even running for president.”
This thought was hardly possible. Those who know Mostafa Elhaggar, the newly elected freshman class president from Pequannock, N.J., know he isn’t easy to forget, and not just because of his first name. Although, he says, that helps.
In fact, it was a big part of his campaign strategy, thanks to advice from student body president Benjamin Cloutier.
“He basically said to get your name out there, which was easy because my name’s Mostafa,” Elhaggar said. “It’s not like Mike or Henry or Frank, when it’s like, ‘what’s your name?’ and then it’s forgotten because it’s so ubiquitous.”
Elhaggar was born an hour outside of Cairo, Egypt, where he lived until he was 3 years old. Elhaggar can still hold a conversation in Arabic.
But he was scared when he went to a general information SGA meeting to hand in his 250 qualifying signatures, and saw the number of people he would be running against.
“Everyone running for freshman class representative was at the meeting: 21 people for 10 positions,” Elhaggar said. “Out of those 21, 10, including me, were running for president, so I was like, ‘No way. There is no way I’m going to be that one out of 10. I’m not even going to be that one out of 21 that has a shot at being a representative.”
Elhaggar’s suspense wasn’t soon relieved when he received an email later last Wednesday saying there was a tie in the vice president race, which his best friend from high school, Joe Kohle, happened to be in. Other election results were not released Wednesday night because they also depended on the pending vice presidential race, said Vincent Bond, a senior and chair of SGA’s election committee. As relieved as Elhaggar was he hadn’t lost, he was stressed about spending another day wondering if he would make the cut.
He had already spent time walking around Commons and Perlroth urging people to vote when he got free time in between his six classes that day. It wasn’t an unusual sight, as he had spent time going to every freshman residence hall, only missing one, in his suit to campaign personally.
“I really wanted it,” Elhaggar said. “I really wanted to be president, so I put in all the effort I had to put.”
For those students who answered the door, he thinks his suit did the trick.
Kohle was his campaigning partner, who also dressed in a suit. He met Elhaggar in first grade, and has been best friends with him since high school.
“Together, I hope we accomplish a lot,” Kohle said. “That’s the reason why we ran together. I just don’t think there’s anyone else better than him to represent our class as a whole. He won’t judge anyone upon seeing them. He’ll be friends with everyone.”
At 7:30 Thursday night, he went to the cafeteria and ended up at the soup bar with his competitor in the presidential race, Kevin Russell.
Russell remembers it as “a weird moment of disarray,” when he just didn’t know what to say to his competitor.
“At first, I thought it’d be a little awkward,” Russell said about being a representative for the person he lost to. “But we’ve talked and we have the same ideas, thoughts. He’s a great guy.”
Elhaggar said, “[Russell] could’ve easily gotten it. And if I did lose, I would’ve been glad to lose to him.”
It wasn’t much longer until Elhaggar received the news.
At 8:20 p.m., Evangelos Milas, a sophomore class representative and friend to Elhaggar, made the call. After purposefully drawing out the news to drive his friend crazy, he finally said, “I just want to let you know, congratulations, you are the SGA freshman class president.”
All I could say was, ‘No way, thanks.’”
And then he ran to the student center.
“I was like Charlie with the golden ticket,” he said. “I ran to the SGA room, and saw everyone there, I felt amazing, I kind of had some self-composure at that point, so I was able to talk.”
Lauren Yaconis, a sophomore public relations major, who also attended Pequannock Township High School and has been friends with him since freshman year of high school, was the one who increased Elhaggar’s interest in both Quinnipiac and SGA.
“I think he’s going to do great,” said Yaconis, who is an SGA representative. “He’s smart, social, everyone likes him. I’m really proud of him.”
During August orientation, Elhaggar settled in quickly and began talking to people about becoming involved. Student government immediately appealed to him because of his student council and leadership experience in high school.
“I really had an interest in talking to people and leading them, to try to push the best of me and them together,” Elhaggar said.
Frank A. Ingargiola, Pequannock Township High School’s principal, worked with Elhaggar and Kohle a lot during their four years before graduation, and recently found out about the duo’s elections.
“We’re very proud of them,” Ingargiola said. “You could not have picked two better students to represent your organization.”
He remembers Elhaggar from the four years he spent on the principal’s advisory committee, which comprised of four selected students from each grade. The administration relied on these students to provide them with information and feedback on student life.
“He’s that kid who will really step up to be a leader,” Ingargiola said.
He’s even studying for a career that deals with helping others. Elhaggar is in the biomedical marketing program so he can use his knack for science, and interact with people at the same time.
Junior Diane Ferrer, one of his orientation leaders, was one of first people at Quinnipiac to urge him to utilize his obvious leadership qualities in SGA.
“Even at first meeting, it is apparent that Mostafa is an excellent leader,” Ferrer said. “I know he’ll represent his class wholeheartedly and I have no doubt that he will work hard to ensure that the freshman class’ voices are heard. Rest assured, QU’s Class of 2015 is in good hands.”
Being president for less than a week has already changed his experience at Quinnipiac, Elhaggar said.
As for his plans, he has not made any promises yet because he says he does not want to make any promises he can’t fulfill. His two main focuses though, will be getting more freshman programming during the week and increasing students’ comfort and happiness within residence halls.
“Going to bed since Thursday night, knowing that me and nine others, we’re in charge and we’re the guys to go to if someone has a problem, I feel so thankful,” Elhaggar said. “To be that guy to help make a difference, it means so much to me. I feel like absolutely this is the best thing I could’ve done so far in my four weeks here at Quinnipiac, I have absolutely no regrets since I entered my Commons dorm in August and said ‘this is the start of it.’ There’s nothing I want to take back.”