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Students Who Soar: Senior Finds Voice in Leadership Roles at Buffalo State

Posted: February 22, 2019

Wilfried Folaranmi spent the first 10 years of his life in the West African country of Burkina Faso. Because of his cultural background, Buffalo State’s diverse campus was attractive to him.

“I wanted to have that experience,” said the senior business administration major who enrolled in fall 2015 after attending high school in the Bronx, New York. He expects to graduate this May.

His only trepidation about entering college was mastery of the language.

“I grew up speaking French and learning English was a major step. I was afraid that after enrolling in college, I wouldn’t be able to speak English very well,” he said, “Or I wouldn’t be able to be understood by my professors.”

Now Folaranmi not only speaks English eloquently, he speaks often. In public. And in multiple leadership roles. Over the past three years, Folaranmi has taken on several visible positions on campus, including orientation leader, resident assistant, peer mentor, student ambassador, and events coordinator in the Campbell Student Union.

“Getting involved on campus has been life-changing to me,” he said. “It’s taught me to get out of my comfort zone and become a leader.”

Stepping out of his comfort zone also meant traveling to Rwanda in June 2018 with the college’s Anne Frank Project (AFP). Most of the students involved with AFP are theater majors and the trip included performing a couple of plays in Rwanda.

“I had never acted. I had never even read a play before,” he said. “AFP Director Drew Kahn taught me to share the story first. He told me after that, we can worry about all the rest. It was one of the biggest things I had to do last year, and I really appreciate him helping me through it.”

Folaranmi also received good advice from fellow students. While contemplating a new major his freshman year, he spoke with some students in the Business Department. They told him he wouldn’t just be sitting in class listening to lectures, that the department offers hands-on experience and internship opportunities.

“They told me there are professors who will sit with you and help you get through the material,” he said. “The idea that a professor would sit with me one-on-one and help me was amazing.”

But the lessons he learned outside of classroom have been just as valuable. His extracurricular experience inspired him to pass along this piece of wisdom to new students: Get involved right away.

“Education comes first, but when you get out of class, you need to do something else,” he said. “Once you graduate, you’ll see that everyone went to college. You have to stand out. So, ask yourself, What did I do outside of class? How did I make a difference?”

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