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First-Year Council president and vice president hope to build community

Keoni Vega and Annie Zhao share a vision of unifying the class and championing transparency

<p>The FYC will meet weekly on Sundays for the fall semester, and transition to biweekly in the spring.&nbsp;</p>

The FYC will meet weekly on Sundays for the fall semester, and transition to biweekly in the spring. 

First-Year Council elections named first-year College students Keoni Vega and Annie Zhao as President and Vice President of the class, respectively. The duo’s goals include creating a sense of class community, bridging the gap between students and administration and leaving a lasting legacy on the University. 

With results announced Oct. 12, Vega and Zhao will be key players in shaping the landscape of the first-year experience. The two will lead FYC to represent and organize events for members of the Class of 2026.

The two first-years decided to launch a joint campaign after meeting in class and becoming close friends.

“We’re in it together because we know each other from the first day of school,” Zhao said. “We sat next to each other in Intro to Social Psychology, and we’ve been friends ever since.” 

Vega and Zhao strive to improve transparency and open discourse. The pair has created an Instagram page for promotional and engagement purposes and welcomes all first-years to utilize the direct message feature to voice their concerns and ideas.

“The big thing I campaigned on was providing transparency and no empty campaign promises,” Vega said. “The University of Virginia is a massive institution and especially as a first year, it can be really difficult to get information. We plan to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work with President Ryan’s office and the deans to make information more accessible.” 

Vega, who plans to study Government and pursue a minor in Public Policy and Leadership at Batten, ran based on her passion for politics and activism. 

“I've always been super involved with student government [throughout] middle school, high school and elementary,” Vega said. “My mom worked at my school, so I was never fazed [or scared] by teachers. So naturally, I always took on that position of working with administration, and I love it.”

Zhao was similarly motivated to run from past experience with leadership. 

“I went to this interest meeting, where one of the RAs in my dorm was telling us about the First-Year Council,” Zhao said. “I thought it sounded really fun because I’m a pretty involved person in-school activities, and I really like to bond with my class.”

Zhao also credits her background with community service for helping her realize her interest in serving others. She has accrued over 500 hours of service and currently serves as Miss Tennessee Teen Volunteer.  

First-year College student Gillian Krupicka, first-year College student and supporter of Vega and Zhao, initially came into their orbit over the summer. Once introduced to Zhao and the pair’s campaign, Kripicka said their messaging stood out to her.

“They really stuck out to me because of their dedication,” Krupicka said. “Every single night I would see them chalking the sidewalks, making TikToks, and just trying to get everyone engaged in the election process.”

Vega and Zhao recently announced a first-year formal, which is coming up Nov. 18, with the theme to be announced Friday. The event requires extensive coordination and planning. 

“It’s like we’re planning a wedding in a month,” Vega said. “We have to think about security, catering, decoration and cleaning … but Annie and I are so excited to be putting in the work.” 

Vega also referenced the multitude of programs the University offers that few students know how to put to use, such as a free New York Times subscription.

Vega and Zhao will not be the only people representing the class. The general body of First Year Council will be made up of around 50 members who undergo an application process. Members will be organized into five committees. The chairs of these committees will be joined by a treasurer, secretary, and newsletter director to form the Executive Board. 

First Year Council will meet weekly on Sundays for the fall semester, and transitions to biweekly meetings in the spring. 


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