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Ampersand: Meet FOCUS Student Coordinator, Della Vaughan


For this Issue, I sat down – virtually – with Della ‘24, a history major who minors in Russian and East European duration studies, as well as theater arts. 


What made you first interested in applying to be a FOCUS leader? 


 I applied during my first year. The reason I was drawn to the program was because of my FOCUS leader. She was truly my first friend on campus, the first person I knew, and was such an amazing influence and person to be around, and to get to see what Stetson was like for her when she was going through it… Because of her, I was interested in focus.


 What does a typical day as a FOCUS leader during orientation week look like? 


It’s so hard to use the word typical. Well, I think one of the very first things that gets drilled into you with focus is you have to be adaptable and flexible. It’s kind of just like, the whole motto of this orientation is being adaptable, something which I feel the pandemic has definitely taught us how to do well. But, it looks a little different for everyone depending on your position. For me, it’s going to look like a lot of behind the scenes work– doing late check in, so anyone who wasn’t able to make it for that big first check in. I’m still going to be running the list every day to make sure you know, no one’s had any last minute changes in their focus group. One of the biggest things is honestly like tech issues and helping solve tech problems.


What’s your favorite thing about FOCUS week?


That’s so hard– I love everything about focus. It’s why I’ve done it for several years. I would say, I think my favorite thing, is seeing the moment where it clicks for someone that this is their new home or like their home away from home. And that’s because FOCUS Week really is the make or break moment for a lot of people, you know, like you could take five tours and go to a summer orientation. And it still hasn’t really set in– like, “this is where I’m going to be for potentially like the next four years of my life.” And college is such an important time in people’s lives. 


Do you remember when it clicked for you when you were a Freshman?


My parents were coming to pick me up because I drove myself for whatever reason to FOCUS that day. And while they were on the way over, it was storming super hard, like, on the way to campus. It was like a torrential downpour, tons of thunder, lightning, and the car was actually struck by lightning, like, while my parents were in it. Luckily, everyone was fine and safe. My mom texted me– she’s like, ‘Yeah, the car is dead, it’s gonna be like, an hour and a half, two hours before we can even get someone to come pick us up so we can come get you.’ I was like, what do I do? Everything was done for the day. So I went over to my FOCUS leader and was like, ‘Hey, by the way, do you mind just hanging out with me for a little bit, or at least showing me where I should go?’ She just sat and talked with me for like the next hour, hour and a half, you know, while I waited until I was able to be picked up.  So I would say that was probably the moment it clicked. Like, yeah, I obviously made the right choice. Where else was I going to get this? You know?


Do you have any tricks on better acclimating the newbies to Stetson?


 I think the most important thing, and I try to tell this to like all the focus leaders and staff as well, the most important thing is meeting people where they’re at. And one of the amazing things about FOCUS is that our staff is so diverse in like, where everyone’s from, backgrounds, majors, interests, but also personalities. The really neat thing about having focus leaders that are so different like that, is that there are going to be some people who are ecstatic to see that super bubbly person, you know, and it’s going to bring them out of their shell, and make them really warm up.


What are things you wish your FOCUS leader did for you, now that you are one yourself?


My FOCUS leader had the added challenge of it being 2020 and no one knew what was gonna happen. Something I wish my FOCUS leader would have done differently… I think what would have been the only thing I would add in would be like post focus– where we could connect with the whole group.  But honestly, I would say I’ve modeled my style of being a FOCUS leader a lot off of how she [Gaby Morales]  was as a FOCUS leader, because I know how comfortable and how welcomed she made me feel.


What do you think is the most important aspect of FOCUS week?


I think the most important aspect of focus is that the students who are coming into Stetson are able to get what they want out of it. Some people come in wanting a chance to meet people. Some people come in wanting that feeling of security– of like, ‘I chose the right place’ or ‘I’m going to be safe here’. But again, for some people, they have no thoughts about FOCUS, they’re just like, ‘Oh, it’s just something else to check off the to- do list.’ And in that case, you know, I hope that they get something a little bit more than the check off the to-do list.


What are some vital skills you learned from being a FOCUS leader? 


I think one of the biggest ones that I have learned is how to be a leader. And not only how to be a leader, but how to lead a group of leaders. I’ve been both a FOCUS leader, as well as a Student ambassador. I got to learn how to represent myself, but also how to represent the University, which was a really positive experience. And communication comes hugely into both of those positions, so it’s also a skill I’ve worked on a lot in the past few years.


Do you have any advice for the newbies coming to Stetson?


So this is advice that my FOCUS leader gave to me during our first few days of FOCUS. Something she told us to do is from the first time you stepped foot on campus, put your name down for something that you’re vaguely interested in. It can be Baking Club, it can be hatters down under, Hatter network, even. It’ll get your foot in the door. Even if you don’t end up sticking with that organization, you’ll meet people there who maybe are in other organizations that sound like things you like and would want to do. It can be a really amazing way for you to put yourself out there and to not allow yourself time to be homesick, or to spend too much time dwelling on things like, ‘Oh, what if I got into this college instead?’ So just put yourself out there.

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About the Contributor
Alis Cadena, Executive Editor

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