This article was originally published at www.theparadigmpress.com
College is the time where we find out our interest, master our craft, and try our best to leave a mark on campus through service and involvement. Marie Rejouis, a first generation student from Tampa, FL, took this idea and really made college her own throughout her four years at Florida Atlantic University.
Rejouis is now a senior majoring in sociology and is reflecting on her last four years which have been full of accomplishments. A few include: President of Black Student Union, Miss Phi Beta Sigma, President of NPHC, Homecoming queen, and a 2020 inductee into the Greek Hall of Fame. However she didn’t plan any of this and never thought she’d be so involved during her time at FAU. “When I came in 2016 to FAU I was pretty much the student who felt as though I would be successful in college if I stayed in my room and didn’t really interact with people but I was completely wrong,” said Rejouis.
She first joined Black Student Union during spring 2017, “The environment of BSU is so very welcoming and it was a home away from home. When I got involved I met a lot of great people who really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” said Rejouis. Her first major involvement with BSU was when she sang the Negro National Anthem at one of their events, “It boosted my confidence and made me realize that maybe being in my room all the time wasn’t what I had to do to enjoy and be successful as a collegiate student, so I got involved”.
From there she became the co-director of the black history committee which gave her an opportunity to showcase her work ethic and creativity while also introducing events that are now considered BSU staple events. From there, she became First Vice President and then President, “I was told that BSU used to be everyone’s go to org that they wanted to be apart of and I guess it fell off so I made it my mission during my presidency to shake things up a little bit and bring that feeling back,” said Rejouis.
Her time as BSU president proved successful when BSU won “Most Impactful Organization” from the NAACP Image Awards. “Winning that award was very eye opening because before I felt as though I need to do my work all the time and make my parents proud, and then come to find out I’m getting involved, still doing well in my classes, and still being very scholarly while being president of a whole organization. So winning most impactful organization of the year was really impactful for me”.
Marie continued her involvement when Dylan Douyard, a member of the Alpha Beta Iota chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., reached out to her about trying out for the Miss Phi Beta Sigma pageant, “I was really skeptical I was like why do you feel like I should do this? He told me about my mark that I’d left on campus so far and he thought it would be good for me for networking and just a different experience. So I said ‘Ok it won't hurt to try’. Along the way I gained pageant sisters and big brothers,” said Rejouis.
After weeks of preparation the night finally came and Rejouis was crowned as the 2018 Miss Phi Beta Sigma, “When I heard them say my name my knees buckled and I literally cried. So many good things were happening to me and I’m just being me, not trying to be something that I’m not and just showcasing who I am”.
Following the pageant, she was asked to be a keynote speaker at the National Society of Success and Leadership, the nation's largest leadership honor society where top students come together to achieve their goals. “Being asked to be a speaker at any event is just a blessing and an honor. I never thought I’d be in a position where someone is asking me to share a bit of my life to encourage other people to embark on their journey.”
After breaking for the Summer, Marie returned in Fall 2018 and became a member of the Xi Epsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, “I gained 16 amazing line sisters and there have been so many opportunities that I’ve gained from this. When you surround yourself with people you don’t even know, not only do you learn about them but you learn more about yourself,” said Rejouis.
Being apart of Delta Sigma Theta also gave Rejouis an opportunity to impact the community outside of FAU, “We have staple events like Deck the Halls where we raise money for kids and families who are in need and the Thanksgiving Grub where we try to provide that home feeling for students who aren’t able to go back home for the holidays to be with their families. It’s great to work with a group of women who think outside of the box and really try to make a change in the world,” said Rejouis.
Shortly after, Rejouis became the Historian of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and around that time it was time to choose a new president. “I did not want to be president. I didn’t feel like I could be president. People saw what I did with BSU but BSU and NPHC are two very different things, two different crowds, and two different expectations.”
However, many people encouraged her to pursue the position, “It’s not that I can’t say no it’s just I’m the type of person that doesn’t like disappointing people if I know I have the will to do something why not try to do it. And if people see something in you it's for a reason. And it wasn't just one person; it was my line sisters, my prophytes, the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma, and members of the NPHC telling me why they think I should take on that leadership role.”
She ultimately became president of NPHC and does not regret the experience, “It was something new and I was put out of my comfort zone. Not only did it teach me how life works but also allowed me to get an idea of what people want, what you can do to try and give them what they want while giving them what they need as well, and be innovative at the same time,” said Rejouis.
Her most recent accomplishment was her induction into the 2020 Greek Hall of Fame. Members of the Florida Atlantic University Fraternity & Sorority community have the opportunity to be inducted into the FAU Greek Hall of Fame by receiving a nomination. Multiple recipients are chosen from each council by the Fraternity & Sorority Life staff members. “When I got the news I was home because of the quarantine and my phone kept going off with different people tagging me in stuff and I was like what is going on? When I saw my name listed as an inductee into the hall of fame I was like this can not be happening. My time as NPHC president is coming to an end so to see my hard work, dedication, and time that I’ve invested into NPHC being appreciated and acknowledged is really heartwarming. It made me realize that anything can happen to anyone as long as you put your mind to it and remain positive. It also showed me that your background doesn’t define you as a person if you don’t allow it to,” said Rejouis.
Rejouis encourages freshmen to never limit themselves and to go for their goals regardless of the challenges they might face. “Never say no without thinking about the pros and cons first. Think about what you can gain from it, what you can learn from it, what you can do with anything you involve yourself in. At least give it a shot because you never know what could happen and you never know what friends or people you might meet along the way,” said Rejouis.
So what’s next for Marie Rejouis? She is an aspiring first grade teacher and also wants to pursue something in the field of motivational speaking. “Recently people have been coming to me for advice about leadership positions and it was a self reflection moment for me because I’m at a point in my life where I’ve been through stuff that people are starting to experience for themselves so the fact that they felt this comfortable to get advice from me and guidance is inspiring,” said Rejouis. She believes that she can encourage more people by sharing her story.
“Everything that has happened to me while I’ve been here at FAU has been a blessing. All of the friends that I’ve made, the sisters I’ve gained, the big brother’s I’ve gained, mentors I’ve gained, genuine friends I’ve gained, it's something I’d never take back. I’m really happy I did everything that I did.”