Clay Wyllia, 22, said he knew everyone and everyone knew him at Atkins High School, where he graduated in a class of 70 students.
He has made a name for himself among the 11,000 students at Arkansas Tech in Russellville, too.
“I was always drawn to leadership roles,” Wyllia said.
Wyllia (pronounced Wiley), a senior, is the Student Government Association president, a tour guide for the Office of Admissions and a tutor for Upward Bound.
While he was growing up, his family had horses and his sister rodeoed, but he was more interested in school activities, such as band, where he played the trombone.
He was the drum major for two years — “up front and in charge,” as he puts it.
One of those students who was in everything, Wyllia was also president of his senior class at Atkins and editor of the high school yearbook, in which he was named Most Likely to Bleed Red and White for his school spirit.
Now, he could be Most Likely to Bleed Green and Gold.
He joined TRiO Upward Bound when he was in 10th grade, a program to help students prepare for college.
He said he stayed on the Tech campus during summers and got comfortable with the whole higher-education experience.
Wyllia got two scholarships to attend Tech, and he has a double major: broadcast journalism and speech communication.
Just like in high school, Wyllia threw his energy into organizations at Tech.
He joined the Student Government Association his sophomore year because he said he saw it as a way to help students on campus.
“If students think something needs to be changed or something’s not right, they’re supposed to take it to [the SGA] administration. … They basically have power to bring about change,” he said.
As an SGA officer his junior year, he was in charge of homecoming activities.
“It was really stressful but a lot of fun,” he said.
The more responsibility, the better.
“I loved it, and I wanted to take it a step further,” he said. “I wanted to build SGA back up to the top and build SGA back up to the organization it’s supposed to be.”
As SGA president, Wyllia wants students to know the organization is “the voice of the student body.”
One of his goals, he said, “is to find more of a connection on campus for students to come to us. There’s a lot of lack of knowledge on what we are and what we do. … You go to the cafeteria and hear people complaining about little problems, but they don’t know we’re the ones to come to.”
Wyllia plans to change that.
“I’m calling this a rebuilding year for SGA, revamping everything we’re about,” he said. “We have office hours now for students to come visit with executive members if they have any problems. Students come up here and are like, ‘What is this?’ We are working on getting our name out there a little more than in the past.”
A new SGA logo has been created, as well as an online suggestion box.
“We’re working right now on an event for students to meet their senators to come find out who they’re supposed to talk to,” he said.
Jenny Butler, assistant director for campus life at Tech, said Wyllia is “a great student” who has been involved in several activities that she’s also had a hand in.
She is one of his advisers in his role as SGA president.
“That’s kind of like the highest honor a student can hold on campus,” Butler said. “He’s got a lot of great things planned already, and he’s trying to make his mark this year. We’re really excited about it.”
Although he could live at home and commute, Wyllia lives on campus and was a resident assistant in his dorm for two years.
“It’s much easier to get involved and stay connected living on campus,” he said.
Being SGA president isn’t involvement enough for him, though. He’s also a tour guide for the Admissions Office (where his sister works as an admissions officer), a tutor with Upward Bound and a counselor for the Upward Bound summer-residential program for high school students.
Wyllia said he’s been a tour guide since he was a freshman, so he trains others now.
“I just enjoy the people I meet. You meet someone new every day that you didn’t even know was on campus,” he said. “I get to give my experiences; that’s the best part about it — the things I’ve been involved in — how I’ve grown as a student on campus.”
Through Upward Bound, he tutors students in grades nine through 12 at three schools: Dover, Hector and Atkins.
“Sometimes it can be hard because some of them know me, and they think they can do whatever they want,” he said, laughing.
One Saturday each month, Upward Bound has an activity on campus for the public-school students, Wyllia said.
“We pick up students who can’t afford to drive here, and I help with that as well,” he said.
Wyllia is making the most of his senior year of college, just as he did in high school.
He said that in February he’ll attend a conference in Wisconsin where candidates can interview for graduate assistantships at colleges and universities.
He plans to graduate in May, and he has all sorts of ideas about his future.
Wyllia started his college career thinking he wanted to be in broadcast journalism, maybe as a producer.
“Then I learned you can get a master’s degree in higher education/student affairs,” he said. “That’s definitely what I’m going to be doing.
“I’d love to come back and work on a college campus, maybe work with organizations … or an admissions office somewhere and work in recruitment,” he said.
“I’m so involved now; you see what you do inside the classroom, and then you see all the people you get to meet and the fun you have outside the classroom,” he said. “There are so many ways to get connected and make friends and get your name out there.
“I want to help students with that so they have a well-rounded experience. I would love to be in charge of campus life somewhere. That’s what I really want, is a big job.”
Where he knows everyone, and everyone knows him.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.