Behind the Leader: Canaris Simmons '18
We caught up with Canaris Simmons ’18 to talk about the work he does on campus in a leadership capacity. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Service to the Sociology Major award in 2017, was a member of the SBS Academic Fellows program, and is part of the staff with Student Bridges, whose mission is to increase college access and success for underrepresented students on the university campus and in neighboring communities.
Canaris began his university career as a sociology major before adding a second major in political science. “The power aspect was very important” to choosing both majors, he explains.
“Some folks have power, and a lot of folks don’t. Studying society for me is like, if you know how something works you are able to change it. That’s where sociology became my first major. However, there’s a lot of power aspect involved and so that’s where political science comes in,” he adds.
Growing up in Mattapan, which he clarifies “is actually in the city—not outside Boston”, Canaris ended up at the University of Massachusetts thanks to his mother.
“I actually transferred here to UMass because I was very stubborn and my Mom kept telling me that there’s this program for adopted children in Massachusetts where your tuition and fees are actually waived,” he tells us. “I was like, 'that’s way too good to be true, no way Mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about'”.
“After doing my research, I learned that it was true. So I transferred from American International College in Springfield over here to UMass Amherst,” he adds.
Canaris explains that he feels his work on campus hasn’t been due to pursuing leadership positions, but rather that he’s been “lucky enough for folks to want to hear my ideas and stand with me.”
“With my energy and with my willingness to work with folks and try to bring out the best in everyone around me—I think that’s an infectious energy,” he says.
Canaris advises students who want to take a more active leadership role to explore student clubs and organizations and find their interest.
“They might not all work for you, however, at least you are trying out certain things. Eventually, you will find your path,” he explains.
Simmons encourages students to go to Student Bridges and learn more about the organization. They offer a service-learning course where student mentors help students in the community find out more about what it’s like to attend college. “I really admire Student Bridges for instilling the virtue of patience in me. These battles take time and the more time you put into it, the stronger you become,” he adds.