SGA presidential candidates meet and greet with puppies

Photo by John Shipley. Nick Larkins is bonding with one of the puppies while meeting with the student body.

UCF students had the opportunity to meet both puppies and presidents at the Student Union on Monday afternoon.

The UCF Student Government Association displayed the two candidates for SGA president, Josh Bolona and Nick Larkins, as well as their vice presidential running mates Jad Shalhoub and Cristina Barreto, along with puppies and other dogs from the Pet Rescue by Judy organization.

The candidates and their running mates aimed to use this event to meet with members of the student body in a comfortable and casual setting, a week before SGA elections are set to take place.

Alexa Goldstein, a sophomore international and global studies major, is SGA’s Executive Cabinet’s Marketing Coordinator.

“What we want to do with this event is not to express support for either ticket, but to help the student body meet their candidates and be informed voters,” Goldstein, 20, said.

Each candidate and their running mate held puppies and welcomed students to approach them for a conversation about spring break, the upcoming election or just to meet a dog.

Presidential candidate Josh Bolona, a junior industrial engineering major, is running his campaign on a platform of communication with the student body.

“What Jad and I want to do is, once elected, we are gonna make sure to reach back out because we want as much perspective as possible.” Bolona, 20, said. “To us, this is about bringing the student voice back to the SGA. You should know who your representatives are, so if they have an issue, you can go and talk to them. And, we want to be there for people.”

Photo by John Shipley. Josh Bolona is talking to students while also playing with the available dogs.

Bolona’s running mate is Jad Shalhoub, a junior industrial engineering major. Shalhoub was also adamant about running on a platform that prioritized the student body.

“The reason Josh and I appreciate this event is because we feel it gives us the ability to engage the attention of the student who is your average passer-by and isn’t really connected, and that is a huge part of our platform as a whole,” Shalhoub, 21, said.

Larkins, a junior health science major, is running beside vice presidential running mate Cristina Barreto, a junior industrial engineering major.

Larkins and Barreto both stressed the importance of uniting the campus and making student representation a priority.

“The biggest thing is being able to meet students and to show them we are not these off and distant beings with names on the signs,” Larkins, 20, said. “We are students like them. The biggest thing we want to tell students is that at large most people don’t know what SGA does, or they think it is like it is in high school. It is not like that at all.”

He said that SGA operates with an $18.6 million budget, and the elected president is also a voting member on the board of trustees.

Barreto made a point to make UCF pride a priority on her platform.

“I am a very proud knight,” Barreto, 20, said. “I bleed black and gold. I talk about UCF all the time. Our slogan is ‘UKnightedAsOne.’ In a time where our country is divided, we all have something in common which is that we are all knights, so uniting our campus in any way, through education or community events, is a big goal.”

Each of the dogs at the event is available for adoption through the Pet Rescue by Judy organization.

Other SGA election events include the Presidential Debate, which will be on March 24 at 6 p.m. in the Student Union, and the election will be held from March 27 through March 29.