La Salle University tradition has the President of the Students’ Government Association (SGA) deliver a welcoming speech before the freshman class and their families at Opening Convocation. On Aug. 22, SGA President Catalina Ta spoke to a few thousand people about her La Salle experience.
“I have never had the opportunity to address such a large audience before,” said Ta, a senior biology major from Philadelphia. “However, I was lucky to work as a Day ONE host this summer, so I was able to spend time with some of the incoming students through freshman orientation. That opportunity provided me with some ideas to include in my speech.”
“There’s a family theme to it all—it’s something I experienced since the day I first stepped onto campus, and I believe that’s what many students here are exposed to as well,” she added.
During her talk, Ta said, “Your teachers can be like your cool aunt and uncles, offering guidance and reminding you to get a good night’s rest before an exam. Your friends will become the brothers and sisters you’ve never had, and-maybe never asked for either, and your occasional disagreements will only make your relationships stronger. You will learn many things from different people, and they will help enhance your experience at this University.”
She also suggested to the freshmen, “get out of your comfort zone. I decided to join the rugby team my freshman year. I never played a contact sport and this frightened me, not to mention- my poor mother almost had a heart attack. But it was fear that I harnessed to fuel my desire to become good at the sport and, in turn, it has become a passion. If you only play to your current strengths, you will always remain the good people you are right now. But I know you can all do better than that. You have what it takes to change the world. But first, you must put yourself out there and learn to take a hit or two.”
Ta had never been involved with student government before arriving at La Salle. “One of the many things I appreciate about the University is the different opportunities available. I was active with sports, music, and student leadership in high school, but never worked as a student council representative,” Ta said.
“I ran for a position at the beginning of my sophomore year (at La Salle) and served as a class senator. Naturally, I was excited and anxious when I learned of my new role in SGA. I was also a bit nervous—with titles come bigger responsibilities, but Amy Esselman, who served as the president before me, was a great mentor. I am ready for my position,” she said.
For her first two years at La Salle, Ta lived in a service-learning community, Signum Fidei, in a La Salle residence hall. (The name of the community means “sign of faith” and is the motto of the Christian Brothers, the order that founded and operates La Salle.)
“The upperclassmen of Signum Fidei helped me become involved, as they themselves served as presidents of SGA, the Resident Student Association and the University Ambassadors,” Ta said. Last March, Ta participated in a service trip to the Dominican Republic, and, for the past three years, she has mentored freshman students through La Salle’s New Explorers program, in which she works with first-year students to help them adjust to college life.
Initially, Ta resisted the idea of attending La Salle. “It’s because my parents always wanted me to come here. Naturally, my teenage mind wanted to rebel and apply to other schools without giving La Salle a chance,” she said. “However, La Salle was truly where I belonged. Once I finally sat down and thought about it, my parents were right, and I am grateful. I attended a Christian Brothers high school (West Catholic) and wanted to continue that tradition. The Brothers helped mold me into the person I am today and have helped my faith grow stronger, to learn to love by putting others before myself, and pushing me to my academic limits. I chose La Salle because I knew they could help make me the best version of myself.”
La Salle University was established in 1863 through the legacy of St. John Baptist de La Salle and the Christian Brothers teaching order, which St. La Salle founded in 1680. La Salle is an educational community shaped by traditional Catholic and Lasallian values.