Senior Nate Darden imparts one piece of advice time and time again: get involved in just one thing

It may come as a surprise to those in various clubs and organizations around campus who know him now, but in high school, senior English major and Creative Writing minor Nate Darden said he was not very involved in extracurricular activities.

“My freshman year I was going to follow that same path, and then I joined cheer and that kind of snowballed everything else,” Darden said.

Throughout his four years at Lees-McRae, Darden has continued his tenure on the cheerleading team, serving as the team’s captain throughout his senior year, but he has also been a peer ally, an orientation leader, a member of Order of the Tower, and a student assistant working in the college’s Office of Admissions.

“It has definitely allowed me to have a lot more connections around campus with staff, faculty, and students. That has really made a great impact on the social aspects of being a student,” he said. “I have been able to know a bunch of different people through these clubs and activities, while also having a professional relationship with staff and faculty and knowing they are there to help me with different references post-grad.”

Being involved in various aspects of campus has enriched Darden’s experience outside of the classroom, but he has also grown exponentially in an academic setting. When he first began his undergraduate journey Darden already had a passion for English that he had built throughout high school. Diving deep into reading and writing, he said, was something he enjoyed, and taking his freshman year rhetoric class strengthened his desire to pursue English academically and professionally.

Once he had that first collegiate-level writing class under his belt, Darden said his path became even more clear, and he picked up the Creative Writing minor, honing a specific passion for poetry. Through various Creative Writing courses and workshops Darden said he can now confidently refer to himself as a poet. His work, including two poems, is included in the latest issue of Ragweed, the college’s student-run literary journal.

Confidence in his craft and a vision for the future of his academic and professional career will serve Darden well as he embarks on the next step of his journey. Following graduation, he said he plans to take a gap year to build up his resume through internships and jobs, and then begin the application process to graduate school where he plans to earn a MA in English, an MFA in Creative Writing, or both.

“Being able to write about so many different things, and really dive into my voice as a writer, has totally shaped me,” he said. “Teaching is one of the goals. I would like to dip my toe into the behind-the-scenes of the publishing world, like editorials and stuff like that. That’s what I’m looking for with my internships, just to find another side of the literary community.”

Darden said that both the academic and extracurricular experiences he has had throughout his time at Lees-McRae have prepared him to be successful in reaching those goals. Classes in advanced research and experiences like peer tutoring, for example, have strengthened his own technical writing skills, while courses in journalism, publishing, and editing have given him a better understanding of the business side of the industry.

“Creatively, all those different creative writing workshops and poetry workshops have allowed me to become comfortable in a group setting. We will often read each other's work, comment on it, and give each other advice on things we could do better. That has made me very comfortable with the peer review atmosphere,” Darden said. “Outside of the classroom with the faculty, they have given me a lot of different connections and fields to explore. They have sent me a bunch of different places that are looking for internships, giving me personal connections, that sort of stuff.”

Looking back on the last four years and all that he has accomplished, Darden said he stands by one piece of advice he consistently imparts to freshmen and prospective students when giving campus tours or leading events at Open House: get involved in just one thing. By being involved in even one organization, he said, students can set themselves up for success by forming strong relationships with their peers in the club or on the team, creating networking connections with their faculty and staff club advisors or coaches, and strengthening their own skills along the way.

He hopes that his own involvement around campus will inspire others to find the club, organization, or team that feels right to them, and then be that voice for the next cohort of students to inspire them to do the same, strengthening the community on campus and giving each other a sense of belonging.

“I hope I was someone that people realized they could rely on in any of the activities I do, and kind of show people that we all can rely on each other. Showing people that they can rely on me hopefully inspires them that they can be that person for someone else, and make those connections, and just have a tight-knit community where we realize that we’re not alone in any of this,” he said. ““When I came here as a freshman, I just knew it was home. I knew this was where I could flourish and thrive, and I would say I thrived here for sure.”

By Maya JarrellApril 26, 2024