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Advocating for equality: Student org president wants to see female leadership flourish in community

Sisters Inspiring Success President Patricia Brutus co-founded the organization with the hopes of bringing a sense of community to the women on campus. ORACLE PHOTO / JUSTIN SEECHARAN

When noticing a lack of representation in leadership positions, Sisters Inspiring Success President Patricia Brutus said it only motivates her to continue pushing for change.

“When you don’t see people who look like you in leadership roles, that can be discouraging for some people,” she said. “But for me, it’s a motivation to make that change and see women flourish in roles they want to be in.” 

Alongside pursuing a degree in biology on the pre-med track, Brutus is the current president of USF’s Sisters Inspiring Success (SIS). 

SIS is an organization designed to serve the women of USF and empower them through fundraising, advocacy and community events. 

She has been with the organization since she co-founded it when she arrived as a student during summer 2021. The group started as a sister organization to Student Support Services (SSS), which aids first generation students from low income backgrounds. 

As its first vice president, Brutus soon faced the challenges that came with starting up a new organization. She said trying to get the word out to the student body was difficult. Despite the early hardships, the group’s tight-knit nature and desire to succeed pushed them forward.

“It was difficult getting people to hear about us, because it’s hard for people to commit to an organization they don’t know about,” she said.

“We didn’t have an executive board for the longest time, so it was just me doing the role of three people. Everyone had to take on that extra responsibility. We had a lot of people trying to make SIS into something it wasn’t meant to be. We wanted it to be our own individual thing.”

The struggles that came with helping SIS grow alongside her role as an ambassador with SSS created a personal struggle for Brutus – finding the balance between her studies, her organization and her social life. She said it was those in her community that helped her during that hectic period. 

“I like to be very involved on campus, and in my first year I was already diving into it,” she said. “I was joining different organizations, I became an ambassador for SSS and was a teaching assistant. It was a lot mentally, and there were a lot of times I would break down. But having the support of my e-board and the friends I had made through SSS, it helped knowing that I had people I could depend on.”

One year later, SIS stands on solid ground with new members and a full executive board. The group has seen successes with recent events like a hygiene drive that was held on March 1. The event amassed more than 100 hygienic bags to be distributed throughout the Tampa area. Brutus said she wanted to make a space for women to meet and collaborate with people from all different walks of life. 

For Brutus, the transition to president felt like a natural progression, even though it also came with an entirely new set of duties. But despite the newfound responsibilities, she said it’s been amazing to reap the benefits of the group’s hard work. 

“When we started off at the beginning doing events and no one would come, it felt very discouraging. But at our last event, it was amazing because we had people showing up and coming to help, and we also had a whole bunch of other organizations reposting our flyer telling people to come. It’s so good to finally see the results coming in and having people come see us,” she said.

“I’m booking rooms, I’m planning events, I’m approving proposals, I’m helping with fundraisers. It’s difficult sometimes, because I’m not a perfect person and I don’t always get it right. It’s becoming more about learning and growing, and realizing that I can’t do everything myself. “ 

As she looks toward the future, Brutus said she sees a world where SIS is not only benefiting the students of USF, but the Tampa community as well.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it while I’m president, but I would love for us to become a nonprofit. Taking that step would keep us more accountable to the things we stand for, which is community service, advocacy and fundraising. We want to reach women even outside of the USF community. “ 

In her short time at USF, Brutus has sought to make an impact in her community. In SIS, she said she sees a path for women to grow in the way she wishes she had seen in her childhood. Now, with the stage set, she said she is ready to see women everywhere step into their potential. 

“At a young age, I hadn’t seen many women in leadership positions. Seeing the different ways that women struggle and knowing that if we take a stand we can see change, that motivates me,” she said.

“I’m inspired by the women leaders I see on campus, but also by the ones I don’t see in the world. It’s an incredible inspiration to watch women flourish.”