Can’t stop, won’t stop

Catreese Qualls elected Phi Theta Kappa International Vice President of Division III

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Matthew Fular, Editor-in-Chief

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. This past fall, Catreese Qualls took that single step when she decided to pursue a run for Phi Theta Kappa’s International Office.

After months of campaigning and community outreach, on April 10, Qualls’ bid for the office of Vice President of Division III concluded in a democratic vote during the honor society’s annual Catalyst Convention in Orlando, Florida. Resulting votes placed her on the 2021-2022 International Officer team and made her the first student from Schoolcraft College’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) chapter, Omicron Iota, to hold an International Officer position.

“I was driven to run for international office by my desire to lift the voices of our marginalized and most vulnerable populations, as well as those who continue to remain invisible due to the continued and persistent measure of inequality,” stated Qualls. “The goal of my campaign was to spread awareness on the issues surrounding mental illness. [My] focus was to draw deliberate attention to the multidimensional root causes, and the multidimensional effects of mental illness.”

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is the international honor society for two-year colleges and technical institutions, with over 1,200 chapter located throughout the world. Each chapter has an officer team, each region (a state or multiple states) has an officer team, and the entire honor society has one international officer team residing over four different divisions that are comprised of several different regions. Anyone who is a member of the honor is allowed to make a bid for their division’s Vice President position or the President position of the international office. Every candidate dials in on an issue they want to champion and bring awareness too and most focus on something that has directly impacted them.

Qualls was one of 26 candidates running for the office this year, and one of three specifically running for Vice President of Division III position. Candidates often leverage social media to extend their campaign’s reach. She used Facebook Live events and various other outlets to spread awareness about her campaign.

“My time as a servant leader, as both a Chapter Officer and Student Activities Office leader, equipped me with the necessary tools to critically analyze, and develop the necessary basis in which I could then build a solid foundation for my platform,” Qualls informed. “My role as former Vice President of Communications and as a current mentor equipped me to deliver a strong and concise message. Collectively all of my [leadership] roles provided the critical thinking, team building, and emotional intelligence needed to draw my desired audience closer to my message.”

Qualls served as Omicron Iota’s Vice President of Communications in 2018-2019, overseeing the College Project in fall 2018, and running all the social media pages for the chapter. She has remained an active member of the honor society after finishing her term, in addition to being the president of the college’s Business Club. She has worked as liaison for multiple clubs, connecting with them and helping them remain functional during the pandemic.

“Catreese is one of the finest student leaders that we have had the opportunity to work with in the Student Activities Office. As a Student Activities liaison to several clubs on campus, she continues to serve our students by helping them with communications, social media interaction and much more,” stated Todd Stowell, Director of the Student Activities Office (SAO) and Qualls’ Campaign Advisor. “Her mantra this year has been “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” I cannot think of a better way of expressing her personality and influence on our other student leaders.”

Additional accolades

Prior to her recent appointment to international office, Qualls was named to the All-Michigan Academic Team earlier this year, and was also nominated to the Coca-Cola Silver Scholar Team, one of 50 members. In addition to these impressive honors, she also was Schoolcraft’s Student Employee of the Year.

“I would say that with all her responsibilities in the office, clubs, real life and her servant leadership outside of school is the most impressive to me,” commented Stowell. “I thought I juggle a lot. Earning the votes of her peers for VP with all the other noise around her is the most impressive thing I have seen any student do in recent memory. Needless to say, we are very proud.”

Community outreach

Outside the classroom, Qualls avidly donates her time to various community programs. Her most recent efforts resulted in a collaborative event between Schoolcraft’s PTK chapter, the SAO and Greater Philadelphia Tabernacle Church of Highland Park Michigan. Qualls’ leadership in the massive effort to serve its at-risk population resulted in over 250 seniors being fed during the pandemic. Qualls’ is also active in other soup kitchens and local churches community outreach programs.

“I’m driven by my desire to empower others, so that I can help to create access to opportunities that weren’t afforded to me as an at-risk youth. Experiencing almost the tragic effects of mental illness, I made a conscious decision to be a voice that would lift, inspire, motivate and encourage others to walk in their own truth as I know I am walking in mine,” Qualls revealed. “I’m emboldened by many who have blazed a trail before me. As an advocate for community outreach, I’m passionate about educating those whose voices have been silenced in grips of fear.  I understand firsthand that knowledge is power and with it, we can teach others to transition from codependency to independent citizens able to contribute to their own communities.”

Platform of influence

Qualls’ role as an International Officer is just beginning and it offers her an even larger platform to continue to champion destigmatizing mental illness. Additionally, she would like to foster more collaboration across the various regions that comprise PTK. With the current virtual environment, the world finds itself in, Qualls sees the opportunity connect with each other in ways that is otherwise impossible.

“I love connecting, and plan to do as many in person events as safely permitted under CDC guidelines. Above all, alongside my new International Officer Team, I plan to show the world what it means to defy adversity through being different together,” exclaimed Qualls. “We are Catalyst, and I am PTK.”

Click here to learn more about Phi Theta Kappa and its mission. To learn more about Schoolcraft College’s Omicron Iota Chapter, visit facebook.com/SCPhiThetaKappa/ or contact them via email at [email protected].