Kalis Nunes ’20 has been on a trajectory of success ever since he first set foot on campus his freshman year. After entering SUNY Potsdam through the Bridges Program, he went on to work as a resident assistant, a tutor for TRiO, a coordinator for Multicultural Weekend, on top of being the president/captain of the Bear Witness Step Team. Now he is taking on his most significant leadership role yet, as the next president of the Student Government Association.
“I love SUNY Potsdam! It’s given me so many new opportunities, especially by becoming the new SGA president. Back in the city, I didn’t have much work experience, but when I came to Potsdam there were just so many different opportunities that I was given—really filling up my resume in a sense,” he said.
Nunes was accepted at SUNY Potsdam through the Bridges Program, geared toward helping students who show potential for success, despite falling slightly below the College’s regular admission requirements. The program offers more support and resources to help students find success their freshman year. “The Bridges Program was awesome! It really helps with the transition from high school to college…We would have meetings to check in and talk about classes. That was very beneficial. I got on the President’s List the first semester I was here, and I honestly feel like that was because of the Bridges Program. They helped so much with me staying on top of my work and figuring out when I needed to do things,” he said.
Nunes was born in Brooklyn, and because of limited financial family resources, he was looking for a college that wouldn’t break the bank and that was far enough away from home to give him an independent college experience. “Potsdam was affordable. My main concern with going away to college was that I needed to make sure I could afford it and I didn’t want to take out a lot of loans that I had to pay back. When I got accepted to Potsdam, I knew I wanted to come here. I wanted that ‘movie’ college experience where I’m living in the dorm and I’m walking to class in the quad. I lived in the city my whole life, so I wanted to get away,” he said.
"Ever since I came to Potsdam in 2016, I’ve been involved with different clubs and organizations on campus. This year I became the club president of Bear Witness, the step team on campus, and I kind of took them to a whole other level.”
Nunes embraced his college experience and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. He became actively involved with the Bear Witness Step Team, one of more than 100 clubs and organizations on campus. “In dancing, you move to music, but with stepping, you are the music and the sound. We use our feet to stomp, and we clap and hit different parts of our body to make different sounds,” Nunes explained.
As the group’s president and captain last year, he helped to transform the club into a powerhouse step team. Bear Witness entered competitions around New York State and took first place in SUNY Oswego’s Stomp the OZ Step Competition, first place in SUNY Fredonia’s Battle of the SUNYs Step and Dance Competition, and then first place at SUNY Potsdam’s annual Hip Hop Showcase—achieving the most success in the history of the club. “Bear Witness is my heart, ever since my freshman year. I just love the feeling I get when I’m in the zone of planning these events,” Nunes said.
On the academic side, Nunes started majoring in physics because of his love of astronomy, but quickly realized that speech communication was the perfect fit for him. He took an introduction to logic class with Assistant Professor Matthew LaVine, which helped him to start thinking about his future career. “His passion, and the way he taught was amazing,” Nunes said.
He also enrolled in a persuasive speaking class with Professor David Fregoe he figured out how to write a speech, deliver it effectively and adapt to his audience. “That was the best class I ever had! I can see how it will be beneficial to me now as the SGA president, as I give speeches, meet with professional staff, and articulate my words properly. It was so hands-on, and it gave me that first-hand experience,” Nunes said.
As he heads into his senior year, Nunes recognizes the importance of staying involved on campus outside of the classroom and he encourages his classmates to do the same. “Go out and do something. Don’t just be the person who wakes up, goes to class, goes to the dining hall, and then goes back to your room. You’re not going to enjoy your college experience. Go join that club. Go join that organization. Take that extra step to do something on campus. When an opportunity knocks on the door, you’re supposed to answer,” Nunes said.
For more information about the Bridges Program, visit:
For more information about the Department of English and Communication, visit:
For more information about the Student Government Association, visit:
Article and photos by Jason Hunter