Tayo Agbalaya shares his vision for the student body

Last week, Azusa Pacific students cast their votes to determine next year’s Student Government Association (SGA) president. On the evening of Feb. 20, the votes were in: Tayo Agbalaya, a junior systems engineers major, will be the SGA president for the 2019-20 academic year.

It’s not hard to see how Agbalaya won over the student body. If you haven’t seen the videos of him dancing or performing a special handshake with vice president-elect Camila Galvan on social media, you may have witnessed his warm smile as he skated past on his penny board.

However, as he revealed in his election speech on Feb. 18, Agbalaya considers each person he passes on a deeper level. Agbalaya spoke about passing a couple of students who were studying in the library late one night.

“I began thinking about all the joy and pain, happiness and sorrow that went into making these people who they are,” Agbalaya said. “I thought about how these individuals are something often said but partially incomprehensible: that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the Lord. I began to think about what it would look like for us as a community if we were able to understand what this meant.”

Agbalaya described his vision for the student body, saying “the only thing we’d see when walking past one another are living creations of the living God.”

Agbalaya was a freshman representative in SGA, then served as an academic senator during his sophomore year. Though he was not involved in SGA last semester, he said he felt God prompted him to return. In his election speech, Agbalaya said God led him to read the book of Nehemiah.

“[Nehemiah is] a servant of God who is cut to the heart when he hears that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down. He asks the Lord for an opportunity to play a part in rebuilding them,” Agbalaya said. “I believe Nehemiah and the Israelites would not have been able to restore Jerusalem if they had not known their why. They knew they had to protect each other. They knew God was merciful in allowing them to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, and they knew it was their obligation to do this with diligence.”

Agbalaya used the platform to call fellow students into action. “What if we as a community did nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit? What if in humility, we valued others above ourselves? What if we put our own interests aside for the sake of serving others?” Agbalaya asked. “Our community would be transformed. If our motivation came from Christ, we’d be motivated to act.”

Agbalaya spoke of previous 2017-18 SGA vice president Angela Pham, who played a key role in motivating SGA senators during his second year.

“When the senators were motivated correctly…that’s when everyone was able to get stuff done,” he said. “[Pham] did a great job of letting us know what we’re capable of. I want to let [my team] know what they’re capable, find the traits and qualities they have, and remind them that [God has them here for] a reason.”

Pham said that she is excited for Agbalaya’s time as president because his strong spiritual leadership and his problem solving skills will help create peace in the middle of contentious issues on campus.

“[Agbalaya’s] experience in leadership in the past was always student-oriented and he has always been so open to feedback from everyone,” she said. “He is always seeking ways to improve life for those around him and ways to improve himself. He has an incredible work ethic and selflessly ambitious vision for the Kingdom of Heaven to be realized at APU.”

Evelyn Gonzalez, current SGA vice president, said she was excited to see where SGA would go next year under Agbalaya’s leadership.

“I had the privilege of working alongside [Agbalaya and Galvan] on SGA during the 2017-18 school year, and I trust that SGA is in great hands. My hope is that they will continue to advocate on behalf of all students and reach out to the marginalized communities on our campus, especially the LGBTQ+ community,” Gonzalez said. “The campus climate over the past few months has been rocky, and it has especially been difficult for LGBTQ+ students to find a safe place on campus. As SGA, it is our job to represent the student voice, so when students are hurting, action needs to be taken to advocate on their behalf.”

Current SGA president Tabitha Parker spoke of her hopes for the transition in the upcoming year.

“The vision for SGA this year is ‘revive,’ so we have dedicated ourselves to reviving community and authentic conversations on campus,” Parker said. “We are currently preparing to transition for the incoming team so that they can continue the projects that we began this year. Next year, we hope that SGA continues to be a group of passionate individuals who listen to student concerns and actively advocate on their behalf.”

In regards to the transition, Agbalaya said he wanted to continue to foster the same spirit.

“I want to continue the process of walking alongside those whose voices are not being heard,” he said.

In his election speech, Agbalaya shared his hope for the student body as a whole.

“Regardless of your ethnicity, your gender, your sexual orientation or your social class, we’re tied together because Christ chose beatings, disgrace and execution for the chance that we may come to know Him,” Agbalaya said. “This is the vision the Lord has placed upon my heart: that we would see each other as actual image-bearers of God [and] people worth dying for, and in light of this, live as a community where no one is unseen, unheard or unwelcomed because we’d see, hear and welcome one another just like Christ did.”

Story on SGA’s vice president-elect and controller-elect to follow. ZU News will also provide updates on the SGA senate race.