“We are the voices for the students, and essentially, each person within Student Government represents somebody at UNCG. It’s important for students to know that there’s someone within our organization they can come to with their concerns,” Mbai says.
In October, Mbai was sworn in as the new President by the UNCG Board of Trustees. She joined SGA during her first year of college, inspired by seeing her resident advisor serve as the President. In her first year, SGA advocated for Juneteenth to be included on the University’s academic calendar, one of the first impactful moments Mbai says she noticed in her SGA career.
MENTAL HEALTH FOCUS
Her first year was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which came with its own challenges but also helped shape her goals around mental wellness.
“During the pandemic, we had to help people manage mental health concerns. The SGA vice-president and I are now working on increasing mental health awareness,” says Mbai. “What that looks like is making people aware and taking the time within SGA to provide resources.”
The organization has also been sending out surveys for issues like suicide awareness and tabling with mental health resources. One of Mbai’s goals is to bring back “mental health days” – a day each semester where students do not have classes and are encouraged to relax and step away from their schoolwork.
PAYING IT FORWARD
During her sophomore year, Mbai landed an internship with Rep. Kathy Manning’s office – specifically working with immigration casework. She is now an immigration assistant in the Congresswoman’s Greensboro office, helping people navigate their immigration journey – something she’s familiar with. When she was five years old, her family immigrated from Gambia to Raleigh, North Carolina – creating a new life as refugees. She speaks five languages: Arabic, Wolof, Spanish, English, and French.
Mbai took the LSAT in August, hoping to eventually earn her way into law school and become an immigration attorney – helping others like her family.
“When my family came to the U.S., we didn’t have a lot of resources, so I want to eventually create a resource center, similar to UNCG’s Center for Housing and Community Studies,” says Mbai.
It was SGA that also helped Mbai get her role with Rep. Manning’s office.
“Congresswoman Manning’s office works with a lot of UNCG students, and I was able to learn from other people in SGA,” she says. “One of the first things I heard in my first year was make sure to use the people around you to learn about different things, and that networking is really important.”
A tutoring position through the Cottage Gardens Resource Center also helped Mbai learn how her skills could translate to immigration casework.
“The main reason why I was selected by Congresswoman Manning’s office is this experience that showed that I was working with kids of different backgrounds and was able to communicate and work to enrich student lives as well.”
Building community is also important for Mbai. When looking at colleges, she wanted to attend a diverse school, something she did not see throughout her education in Raleigh.
“I came from an area where there were predominately White institutions my entire life,” says Mbai, who is also a first-generation college student. “So, seeing the diversity at UNCG drew me to the University. Greensboro is also diverse with marginalized communities, which I wanted to work with.”
She found a community at UNCG, both within the University and SGA.
“I’ve met so many different people, and heard so many different stories, and they’ve shaped me as a leader, to understand what I want for myself.”
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by David Lee Row and Sean Norona, University Communications
Additional photography by Martin Kane
Videography by Grant Gilliard, University Communications
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