After nearly passing on GW, Abanto eyes SA
Marc Abanto almost didn’t come to GW. In fact, it wasn’t even on the junior’s list of potential colleges at first.
“My guidance counselor insisted that I apply to GW, and he put it back on my list three times,” recalled the Connecticut native. “When I finally visited, I fell in love with the place. I went back home and gave my counselor a hug.”
Three years later, Abanto, now a junior, is close to attaining the highest student government position in the school he almost didn’t go to. Last week, he finished first out of the five candidates running for Student Association president. He did not garner the 40 percent threshold needed to win and this week faces sophomore Nicole Capp in the run-off election.
Abanto’s slate, The Student Union, was also successful on election night, winning 12 out of 15 undergraduate senate seats. Junior Nick D’Addario, Abanto’s running mate, also advanced to the run-off round against sophomore Brand Kroeger.
Abanto grew up with his mother and younger brother Scott. His father emigrated from Peru as a child and now lives in New York with Abanto’s step-sister Maggie.
In his spare time, Abanto enjoys doing one activity above all — relaxing.
“Relaxing is one of the greatest things in life, whether it’s going to a movie with my friends, or just spending time with the people I love,” he said.
He hasn’t relaxed very much while doing student government. In high school he served as student body president his senior year. Upon entering GW, he instinctively sought out the SA as a place to continue his work.
“I’ve always wanted to positively impact places I’m connected to,” he said.
For Abanto, the SA is less about ideology and more about choosing dedicated leaders. This approach guided the formation of the Student Union slate.
“We created (the slate) to ensure that like-minded individuals could affect change on campus, not to create a political machine,” he said, noting that the slate has already been dissolved. “What’s really important is picking people who can utilize their skills and be effective leaders.”
Abanto is quick to point out his own ideas for the SA. If elected, he would work to reform health and safety inspection and create an internship database for students. However, in order for the SA to have a successful year, Abanto said it is most important that members cultivate a good working relationship with the administration and maintain a positive outlook.
“The first thing I’d do after winning is meet with senators and talk to them about their ideas and how we can form a collaborative effort,” Abanto said.
Abanto has served for two years in the Senate, first as a senator from the Columbian College and then as a senator-at-large. As a sophomore, he helped to install the Colonial Coach service, offering free shuttle rides between GW and Dulles Airport.
This year, Abanto served as the Chairman of the Student Life Committee, where he worked on an off-campus housing guide that he hopes to publish soon. Abanto has been impressed by the SA’s recent accomplishments and controversy-free atmosphere, which he credits to the cooperation of all those involved with the organization.
“I really can’t point to anything that the SA has lacked this year,” he said. “I think that the SA this past year has proved that if you have the right students, you can be successful. I hope we’ll continue to with that formula to achieve future success.”
Heritage, family define Brooklyn native Capp
It’s late on a weeknight and the smell of Italian spices and the sounds of classical music are filling the hallway outside of sophomore Nicole Capp’s Ivory Tower room.
Capp, who is facing junior Marc Abanto in the Student Association presidential runoff this week, tries to make her room like the home where she grew up – 200 miles away from Foggy Bottom in Brooklyn.
“I’m Italian, so my family cooks all the time,” said Capp, who used to cook with Thurston Hall’s one stove. “I remember I made cauliflower and macaroni at Thurston last year and everyone in the dorm knew.”
Living with an Italian mother, Marie Vincenza Rose Ballirano Capp, and a Ukrainian father, William Capp, food and family were essential parts of growing up, she said.
“I had a great childhood,” said Capp, who also has two half-brothers. “It is all about family. We have dinner together every night.”
Capp attended public school and was the first in her family to go to college. Her father is a retired union worker and her mother worked her way up from a store clerk to the vice president of a New York City insurance company, Capp said.
“I have two parents that love me and work hard,” she said. “They have instilled good values in me.”
In addition to good values, her parents instilled a love for classical music.
“Not many people appreciate that I like classical music,” Capp said. “It isn’t easy talking about Puccini or Bach instead of Tupac when you are 14 or 15 years old.”
Capp said she wanted to study for a career as a professional opera singer, but GW was a “blessing in disguise.”
“(Opera) is what I thought I wanted to do with my life,” Capp said. “I was going to go to a conservatory and get into the Metropolitan Opera, but I decided to come to GW, (instead).”
Although she was involved with student government in high school, Capp said she had no intentions of pursuing a candidacy for SA president when she arrived at GW.
“I never thought this would happen,” said Capp, who has served as a senator for two years. “I never thought I would do anything political.”
Capp said she originally applied for a freshman non-voting senator seat last year because she wanted to “help out.”
“I love taking a unique problem and finding a way to fix it,” Capp said.
The three main pillars of Capp’s platform include increasing the number “health(y) eating options” and groceries stores that use the GWorld card program, the creation of a student support center and an effective communication strategy to inform students about SA activities.
As a senator, Capp has held several town hall meetings and sends out regular e-mails to students about what is happening in the SA and for Campaign GW, a student group that advocates for the city approval of GW’s development plan.
An economics major and organizational science minor in the School of Business, Capp said she is still just a normal student and has not had “any earth-shattering experiences.”
“Staying grounded is my biggest achievement,” Capp said. “I don’t get caught in the mix … It is easy to get lost in yourself at GW.”