Abyssinia Haile Elected President of Massachusetts Association of Student Councils

Lilli DiGrande, Co-Editor in Chief

On March 10, 2023, junior Abyssinia Haile won the presidential election for the Massachusetts Association of Student Councils (MASC). The title alone holds significance, but it means much more than just a name on paper to Aby.

During her freshman and sophomore years, Aby was the 2024 Class President for Minnechaug, but she, unfortunately, lost her junior year. She then decided that she wanted to continue to do student council outside of school, and she ran for the regional board, Western Massachusetts Association of Student Councils, as Vice President. Aby won that election in May 2022, but she didn’t stop there.

“I have been on the board for almost a year now, and being able to work with so many different people pushed me to take an even bigger step in deciding to run for the role of President,” she said.

Aby started campaigning this January, and chose a sentimental theme that resonated with her and her Ethiopian culture; a genre of music called Tizita.

“I feel like my campaign would have been incomplete if people weren’t able to have an inside look into what I consider the biggest aspect of my identity,” she said. “What really spoke to me was Tizeta, and it translates to “nostalgia” because it makes you really think of your childhood, and back home and everything.”

But Aby soon learned that there was more to Tizita than just music. It connected with advocacy methods and protesting, which epitomized the main reason why she does student council: “to give a voice to people who feel like they are not being heard. Who feels like no one is appreciating their presence, and assuring that those people feel acknowledged and that their thoughts and ideas are heard,” she explained. “That’s kind of what Tizeta did for Ethiopian people and musicians.”

Aby holds true to this idea and connects it to make sure there is fair representation and equity within MASC. “In terms of access to activities, most of them are in Eastern Mass, and that is a very big upset for people in Western Mass who have to drive over an hour just to go to a Bocce tournament or a Special Olympics of Massachusetts-sponsored activity,” she said. “So yeah, making things more equitable and allowing for everyone to have some sort of engagement with MASC and not just people who live in the east.”

With most student council events being in Eastern Mass, many Western Mass schools are unable to participate, due to both inaccessibility and funding for transportation. “Student Council shouldn’t have inequity with funds especially since some schools don’t have as much money available to attend the events as others,” Aby said. “Next year, I will talk with my board and make it so that [certain events] are from each region with a reasonable amount of travel time.”

Aside from her main ideas and hopes for the Student Council as the president, Aby didn’t make any true guarantees during her election speech, a strategy that she used to show that she wasn’t one to make empty promises short-handedly without knowing if it is even possible.

“I can assure you that I’m not going to do things halfway, because if I am fully committed to doing something, then I will do it. I’m more of a do-er than a sayer,” she said. “Change is a general term, but I really want to do more with expanding representation throughout Massachusetts. You can be assured that I will do my best to make that happen. It may not be translated specifically now because I don’t know what I’m working with, what funds I’m working with, or who I am working with, but that is something that I want to have to happen in some capacity.”

With her cultural-centered campaign and general ‘promises’ for equity as a candidate, Aby won the Presidential election, even though she had had her doubts throughout. “I felt so shocked. At that moment I cried with joy. At that moment, everything that I had worked for came full circle and I was rewarded for all of the commitment I had put in,” she explained. “It was such a great feeling. I had never felt so much gratitude for people in my life than I did at that moment.”

Now that the campaign is over, Aby expresses true gratitude for all of those who helped her and supported her along the way.

“There are not enough words to express how much gratitude I have for [my supporters]. They really showed up for me at the conference and beyond. I had never realized that so many people were behind me, and that was just like ‘wow.’ Truly without that foundational support, I would never be able to continue the motivation that I had to make the campaign, the slides, the social media pages, etc. Even now, my heart beats gratitude for everything,” she said.

Aby hopes that her story can help inspire others, to show that even when times get tough, it’s important to preserve and not give up. “It has not been an uphill battle of any sort,” she said. “But anything that you want to have in life is possible if you put in the work and trust and believe in yourself, even when times get tough. If you put in the work, things will manifest themselves for you and they will reveal themselves for the better, and it’s awesome when that happens.”