I’m trying to figure out what I’m best at so that I could be a service to my community.
By Jill Bold
Photo by Amber Shumake
Blaize LaFleur, 21-year-old political science junior at the University of Texas at Arlington, stood before a committee, calm and determined on the outside, strong but uncertain on the inside. Would this administration trust her leadership and consider her request or turn their backs on her? She presented ample and compelling research to support her call for change, and all she needed was for the people in charge to act with her in collaboration.
LaFleur was serving as student body president in 2020, the first Black president elected in 34 years, carrying out the last of her duties and the final chapter of her mission to provide a more inclusive environment for her fellow students by passing Resolution 1825, a bill that recognizes the needs of marginalized women and children.
Its passing would require the name of Davis Hall at the university to be changed, removing the namesake of the controversial figure E.E. Davis from the building. This resolution was introduced in 2018 and worked on by LaFleur when she was a senator for the university in 2019, seeing it through later as a committee chair and finally as student body president in 2021.
LaFleur presented evidence that Davis espoused racist beliefs and said she knew changing the building’s name would be a positive step toward a more inclusive campus. The committee agreed, and she finished her term as president with a victory. She said she felt energized by listening to the needs and desires of the community and acting to serve them.
“It kind of just fueled my fire,” LaFleur says.
Her term was characterized by her willingness to listen to the people she served and uphold their interests. During her presidency, when she called upon the university administration to implement a pass/fail option at the behest of her fellow students, she put in the work to make the case. This time, the committee considering her request did not go forth with her suggestion, and she reflected on how she could use this experience to find ways to serve more effectively, to take setbacks in stride and to maintain persistence and focus.
LaFleur grew up with her mother and grandmother, and both emphasized the importance of getting an education. Her drive for education led her to the Fort Worth area, where she continues her studies and wants to draw upon her experiences in student government to advocate for her community in a grassroots way.
“I’m trying to figure out what I’m best at so that I could be of service to my community,” she says. “I want to give back to the community. I want to impact people’s lives. Real people. Not through performative legislation. I want to talk to real community members and say, ‘Oh yeah, you want to know how to do XYZ’ or get these resources or your kid through college? Or figure out how to cope with housing and security? Whatever it is they need.”
LaFleur is a young woman who is always seeking growth opportunities and certainly is one to watch.