HawkStrong: Kat Peter led HFC’s Student Council in new directions
Note: Kat Peter uses they/them pronouns, which are reflected throughout this story.
Even though they will no longer serve as chair of HFC’s Student Council – a position they’ve held for four years – that won’t stop Kat Peter from staying involved.
“I’ll be serving as a representative (for Student Council),” said Peter, of Lincoln Park. “This time around, I’ll be supporting and not leading. It’s time to let someone else have a shot.”
Peter served two consecutive 2-year terms as chair of Student Council, their most recent term ending with the conclusion of the Winter 2023 semester. They could not run again because they reached the term limits. HFC student Michelangelo Molinari will succeed Peter as chair of Student Council, effective the Fall 2023 semester.
“I’m really looking forward to working with him,” said Peter. “He’ll be great. He has a lot of energy. He’s been present and involved all over campus. I think he’ll be a good face and good voice for Student Council.”
HFC Director of Student Activities Cassandra Fluker worked closely with Peter during their four years as chair.
“I’m proud to say that Kat made a difference at HFC, leading the Student Council. Kat encouraged members to get involved and ensured that the Student Council positioned itself to hear the voice of the students,” said Fluker. “Kat demonstrated empathy and care and advocated for students. I appreciated their dedication and leadership in working with the student body. Kat is an outstanding leader.”
Defying stereotypes and biases
Peter is a self-described disabled, autistic, non-binary student.
“Non-binary and gender-neutral representation is very important to me,” they said. “I think it’s important to show that people of all different skills, restrictions, and backgrounds can still do things people might normally believe that we can’t. I want to defy that stereotype and those biases.”
The youngest of three, Peter was born in Dearborn and raised in Temperance. They graduated from Allen Park High School.
Peter is majoring in environmental studies at HFC and will graduate with their associate degree by the end of 2024. Afterward, Peter plans to transfer to Wayne State University and major in chemistry.
It was their father, Kenneth A. Peter, an HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) alumnus, who encouraged them to pursue their education at HFC.
“My dad majored in architecture,” said Peter. “He had a positive experience at the College. It’s a great school to transfer from and take classes at a more affordable rate. Tuition is at a lower price without sacrificing academic integrity. I plan to transfer, and everything’s widely transferrable, especially to Wayne State.”
Their father also inspired them to pursue environmental studies.
“My deep love for nature stems from my childhood. Growing up in Temperance, it was quite rural. My dad took me on nature walks. I learned about what species of animals, trees, and plants are native to Michigan. I look at nature in a completely different way because of him,” said Peter. “I have a strong moral compass and see injustices we’ve created for our earth, and that makes me passionate about ‘fixing it,’ quote-unquote. I’m really excited about making change in the world to make it a better place. This is my way of doing it.”
Making HFC a better, more welcoming, more engaged space
During their time at HFC, Peter has been involved in the following groups:
- Black Male and QUEENS Focus Group
- The Student Environmental Association
- The Sexuality And Gender Acceptance Club
- Sustainable HFC committee
- Operations Council
HFC Director of Theatre Dr. John Michael Sefel is a member of the Student Council Advisory Board. Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, he has had many opportunities to work with Peter.
“Kat's leadership on Student Council makes our campus a better, more welcoming, and more engaged space for all students,” he said. “Event after event, Kat is there, urging on their peers and setting an amazing example. As for theatre, our program is tangibly better because of Kat's hard work and influence, from managing a year-long organizational project to being one of a small team of students who made our April campus-wide extra credit program possible. Lots of students have an impact on the program, but we simply would not have accomplished nearly what we did this year without Kat's persistence and leadership.”
Initially, Peter was reluctantly to take on a leadership role in Student Council, but their predecessors, Baraka Elmadari and Georgia Cotter, encouraged them to do so. Elmadari served as chair for a year and Cotter served as vice-chair for a semester.
“Georgia encouraged me to run. She felt that I’d be a good fit. We’d talk in class about the College and the campus. She encouraged me to do it, despite my lack of leadership experience,” said Peter. “Student Council has helped me with my leadership skills and my social skills. Being a leader on campus has been a good way to amplify the voice of the student body, which is our mission.”
Helping students in need
Student Council hosted many events, including magic shows and Kangi writing. It was present at Welcome Back Days, giving students promotional grab bags containing a portable charger, a notebook, a pen, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and a pack of tissues. Peter also spoke at the Feb. 20 vigil in support of Michigan State University, which Student Council co-sponsored.
“We also sponsored a lot of trees that have been planted on campus, which is a passion of mine. This past semester alone, we sponsored seven trees,” she said. “I need to give credit to (HFC IEMP coordinator) Nicholas Paseiro, who coordinated and promoted the Arbor Day event with the sponsorship of Student Council. I also want to thank everyone within Sustainable HFC and any others who participated in the planning and execution of the Arbor Day tree planting, despite the challenges we faced.”
Under Peter’s leadership, Student Council held Come Together Sessions during the height of the pandemic. These sessions provided a safe space for students to connect with other students and talk about how they’re feeling as they went through such unprecedented times. HFC Associate Dean of Counseling Dr. Ibrahim Atallah was present during these sessions, providing guidance and counsel.
“These sessions were very successful,” recalled Peter. “We got a lot of positive feedback. Students were very grateful for them.”
Fluker heard similar feedback from students.
“Students came together and openly expressed their feelings with their peers to discover that others had shared experiences,” said Fluker. “Student Council facilitated the sessions, and Dr. Atallah accepted the invitation to navigate the emotions of students for balance and direction. Students really appreciated and benefitted from the sessions. Kat took the lead in helping other students in their time of need.”
Proudest achievement and lasting legacy
Peter’s proudest achievement is how much Student Council has grown during their time as chair.
“I’m happy with the overall outcome,” said Peter. “We’ve created a stronger team. I’m leaving with 5-6 members on board, two of them are Henry Ford Early College students. That’s good because they’ll be here longer, which will create some continuity in leadership. This is a more diverse group, which is a better representation of different voices.”
Peter continued: “We’ve strengthened the idea of Student Council at HFC. It felt like nobody knew about it, for the most part. We have to actively promote Student Council to get in touch with the new faces on campus. Amplifying the importance of Student Council has helped its visibility and credibility at the College.”
HFC fine arts instructor Victoria Shepherd serves as the faculty advisor for Student Council. Like Fluker, Shepherd worked closely with Peter.
"Tasked with being chair during COVID-19 was not an easy situation. Among other events, Kat brought to the campus Come Together Sessions in which students had an opportunity to talk and be heard during this difficult time. Kat held the group together and helped it grow,” said Shepherd. “Kat is very passionate about the environment and equality of all people, which also fueled their activities on the HFC campus. While Kat will be stepping down as chair, they will continue to be seen actively on campus helping the theatre department, planting trees, or advocating for human rights. Thank you, Kat, for your service to the HFC community."