Kyler Gray and Madeline Mills decided to leave behind the small towns and structured activities they grew up around to discover their own paths at one of the largest universities in the nation.
“By far the best decision I’ve ever made,” Gray said. “Without a doubt, UCF has made me the person I am.”
Now, as juniors, the two best friends have decided they want to leave their impression on the university that’s molded them into who they are by running for SGA student body president and vice president.
If elected, they said their hope is to provide students with similar positive experiences.
“That’s what we’re trying do — enhance the student experience and make it so memorable and so life changing that people will never forget how much UCF changed their [lives],” said Gray, public administration major running for president.
When Mills and Gray first got involved with SGA as freshmen, they said they had no plans to run for president or vice president. Now, they feel they’re the most qualified and passionate for the job.
Gray described the duo as “weirdos” because they love what they do so much.
“That’s why I love UCF,” he said. “Everyone can be who they want to be with no judgement, and that’s exactly what we want to continue with the culture here.”
Mills and Gray launched their campaign with the slogan “Ignite our Future,” representing their collective desire to help students find their strength and passion at UCF.
“We took off when we got to UCF because we were so excited, but some students need help to take off and ignite their futures,” said Mills, political science major on the pre-law track. “Yes, you can be scared, and there may be things in your way, but we want to take down those barriers, and if you have a passion and a heart to make a difference or to be somebody, let us help you be that person.”
A major theme among their extensive campaign platform is student safety. One thing Gray said he’s most determined to improve is the crosswalk at the intersection of Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard. Students frequently cross at the intersection late at night — often when leaving bars around campus, he said.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our students,” Gray said. “We understand you're here for an academic experience, but you can’t have a quality academic experience if you don’t feel safe on campus.”
If they win the election, the duo plans to take proactive steps toward safety by installing blue crosswalk lights along the intersection to alert cars when pedestrians are crossing at night. Gray said this solution seems not only affordable, but also feasible and could potentially reduce the number of incidents each semester.
While many aspects of their platform focus on safety, inclusivity and addressing student concerns, some of the items are more whimsical. Mills said one of the things she’s most excited about is bringing electric Lime scooters to campus.
“I think that something everyone gets excited about [is] Lime scooters just because it’s childish,” Mills said. “It’s carefree, and people enjoy them.”
Gray said students have the most powerful voice on campus, which is why it’s so important for the student body president and vice president to listen to students and present their concerns to leadership.
“We’re a grassroots campaign,” he said. “We want to hear your concerns, your ideas [and] your suggestions, so we can facilitate those wants and needs.”
Mills and Gray acknowledged that based on appearance, they’re not the most diverse individuals, but said their experiences have taught them to value diversity, inclusion and equity above all.
“Diversity isn’t based on color," Gray said. "Diversity [is] based on thought."
While at UCF, both have made the most of the resources offered and joined various organizations. Mills, who currently serves as SGA’s director of innovation, said she joined almost everything she possibly could when she came to UCF, including SGA, the LEAD Scholars program and the Panhellenic Council organization Pi Beta Phi.
Gray has had similar involvement as a member of the Interfraternity Council organization Phi Delta Theta and former SGA attorney general. Although their interests often overlap, Mills said their different passions allow them to understand various aspects of campus and student life.
“We’ve seen all different parts of this campus, all different minds, and thoughts and ideas, and we want to bring that to life in our administration if we are lucky enough to win,” Gray said.
Gray said that the titles of president and vice president don’t describe the dynamic he and Mills share. Mills is less of a vice president and more of a co-president, he said.
“Regardless of who’s technically the president, consider us both the president because that’s how we want to run,” Gray said.
Win or lose, Mills said she doesn’t regret her decision to do this with Gray by her side, because he’s believed in her from the very beginning.
“I’m just excited that we get to do this together,” she said. “I couldn’t be [luckier] than to be running with my best friend.”
Gray said he always tells students that even if they don’t vote for him, the most important thing is to get out and vote.
“We like to say that this isn’t a campaign," he said. "It’s a movement. Regardless of [whether] we win or lose, we want students to be engaged and understand the importance of these two roles.”
Voting for the 2019 SGA presidential election will begin Monday and will run through Wednesday. Students can vote on myUCF.