Utah State University Student Association hosted a new event Tuesday evening in the Taggart Student Center. Aggie Heroes, an event similar to TED talks, featured speakers from a variety of backgrounds with diverse and impactful messages.
Aggie Heroes featured eight speakers with messages about everything from eating disorders and sexual assault to life in a wheelchair or being gay in the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints community.
Ayanna Likens, the President Cabinet’s director for the 2017-2018 school year, said Aggie Heroes has been being organized since last semester.
“Michael Scott Peters had the idea during his election. His campaign was everyone belongs and he wanted to showcase that,” Likens said. “He thought bringing different challenges and backgrounds together in one place and sharing them would be a great place to start.”
Likens has been working with Peters since July to put together an evening that would be both enjoyable and impactful for USU students. Although they have faced some struggles, Likens said the hardest part was choosing who should be speakers for the event.
“There are so many great students and Aggies with inspiring stories. We just wanted to get a variety of different people. We have people from all different backgrounds and challenges,” she said.
T-shirts were handed out to the first 150 people who came through the door and attendees were able to meet the speakers afterwards. SAAVI (Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information), CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services), a therapy dog and a nutrition specialist were all available for students to meet with afterwards if they needed any assistance.
“Knowing this event we are putting on could help even one person has been the rewarding part,” Likens said. “If one of these speakers we have chosen touches even one person in the audience and helps them, then we have succeeded.”
Matt Bowen, one of the Aggie Heroes speakers, said he was excited to get to be a part of this event.
“Reminiscing about the experiences I went through and how far I have come is my favorite part,” Bowen said. “ I don’t think about it every day so to realize where I am at now versus where I was at the beginning is empowering.”
Bowen is paralyzed from a body surfing accident that occurred in 2015. After a long road to recovery, Bowen has been able to graduate from USU only a semester later than he had planned with a degree in information systems.
“There are two parts of what changed my perspective on my situation. My brother offered me advice to only feel sorry for myself for ten minutes a day,” he said. “Then I realized I had a choice between either being upset and bitter about my situation or putting on a happy face and getting ready to conquer the world.”
Feyisa Berisa, another speaker said it was a great honor to be asked to participate.
“I never thought I had accomplished anything. But we all have,” Berisa said. “If you feel like someone recognizes what you do it makes you excited to do more things, making you more successful.”
Greg Beecher, the Buddy Director for USU Best Buddies was another speaker at the event. He focused his speech around being more accepting of people with intellectual disabilities like himself because they are no different from other people. Beecher said he believes all of the different issues talked about during Aggie Heroes are important topics for people to understand.
“Once more people know about these issues, the insight will be greater,” Beecher said. “A lot of times people do not think about how the other person feels. Overall awareness for other people is what we are trying to convey.
Likens said Aggie Heroes was put on for many purposes, but the largest were for an increase in empathy and inclusion on campus.
“We want Aggies to come and hear these stories and know that they aren’t alone,” she said. “We have resources at school for them and we are here for them too.”