Running for class president was not Danielle Panico's top priority, until a chance encounter with a kind stranger inspired her.

Panico, who is president of the Class of 2022, is familiar with politics. In high school she also served as leader of her class, but the experience didn’t leave her inspired.

But a week before starting classes at Virginia Tech something changed.

“My parents were staying at The Inn and called me saying that they planned to pick me up from my dorm, Cochrane, and that they were with someone they wanted me to meet. When they got to my dorm they were outside in a Virginia Tech Inn shuttle.”

Confused and interested to see who her parents were with, Panico skipped out of her dorm toward the shuttle. She was surprised when her parents wanted her to meet the shuttle driver, a Virginia Tech senior who was ecstatic to welcome a new Hokie.

The student raved about the 2019 class president, Billy Lin, and suggested Panico follow him on Instagram. A couple days later, Lin reached out to discuss the role of class president.

Panico, who is a public relations major, said she was overcome by the community and sense of belonging she felt at a place so far away from her home in Boston. She knew that she wanted to make other people feel the same way she did after being welcomed with open arms by so many people.

“The reason I specifically knew I wanted to run [for president] was because of the fact that someone, who had just met me, believed in me so much. That just really motivated me to want to do it. It’s crazy how the smallest interactions can have the greatest impacts,” Panico said.

Panico sat silently and proudly as she looked at the rows of white decal class logos stuck to the rusting grey filing cabinet in the corner of the class office room. She reflected on why she ran while she scanned reminders of the years of hard work and memories created by the classes before hers.

“Also, it’s like weird to say, but I felt like I did a lot of personal growth in those first few months of school. The school did a lot for me and the people did a lot for me in order to help me grow and mature. It didn’t feel like I was so far from home. So, since Tech did so much for me, I wanted to do whatever I could to give back.

“I thought what better way than to hold a leadership position that allows you to be so involved and be so impactful on such a large scale; basically, that’s what I want to do in college and in my life. My goal is to have an impact, whether that’s on a place or on people. To just leave whatever it may be better off than when I found it.”

Written by Amanda Hinton ’20