First and foremost: It has been an honor being your Vice President for the past two years. When I took up the mantle of Vice President in 2021, it seemed like we had nothing and everything at the same time. We had just gotten through a mostly virtual Alder election, and Apartment Developments and Liquor License applications seemed to be pouring in as if we were beavers trying to manage an overflowing river. Along with 5 other E-Boards I was a part of and the last year of my Bachelor degree, life was unimaginably stressful. Nonetheless, Eli and I persisted. When I compare how we were when we started, to what CANA is able to achieve now, I am filled with pride and fear. I am proud of the ways we have persevered as an organization even when CANA seemed to be a burden with no return. It was through the support of our downtown alders (Juliana Bennett, Patrick Heck, & Mike Verveer) and community members that did their utmost best to support us and lift CANA up (Jason Ilstrup, Stephen Smith, Ron Luskin, and many others) that reminded me that CANA mattered to more than just Eli and I. That young people can use our voices and be listened to downtown rather than just be part of the menu for decisions that will affect us and those who live in the area after us. That our experiences living downtown, with all the bad along with the good, mattered enough that we could make it so that people in the future could have a better experience than we did— because, regardless of all of the good experiences I have gained from CANA, it was hard enough trying to get myself through school as a first-gen scholar without also managing development applications, going to hours and hours worth of meetings when I could of been working for pay, and trying to tackle city issues when all I wanted to do was focus on my own life and issues.
Nonetheless, we persisted.
So, I am proud of what CANA has been able to become because I have seen how others and I put in our blood, sweat, and tears into making it what it is now (see https://www.canamadison.com/our-team for a list of all who have been involved in CANA since 2020). And I also fear what will become of CANA once I leave, since I know how much effort it is to maintain when students have so many other things on their plates. I am extremely lucky that I had support from all my supervisors during my Masters Program that enabled me to prioritize CANA in this past year. So, I will not begrudge any way the next CANA board decides to steer the organization. Because, most of all, I am tired. I felt like a candle flickering out, burning out. This is not to say I regret the work that I have done on behalf of CANA, because I do not. I believe in CANA’s mission (https://www.canamadison.com/bylaws) and am proud of the ways we have pushed CANA into new spaces. But I am ready to pass the mantle to those with more energy and new ideas, so that CANA can aspire to greater heights.
So, I hope CANA will continue to be a community resource you all can trust; likewise, please continue supporting CANA in its endeavors! It takes a community to make a community, so I hope that the space that Eli and I have painstakingly maintained and improved for the last few years can continue to provide young renters and the campus area community any support it needs to become a more vibrant and inclusive area.
Hopefully this is not a goodbye, but a ‘see you soon.’
Cleo Yothsackda Le