By Hannah Newman
WHEN creating his college experience, the opportunity to work for the highest level of law enforcement stood as the measure of growth for senior criminal justice major Darren Rush.
Rush is a first-generation college student who left high school wanting to recreate himself, hoping to become a more involved and outgoing individual. He has taken advantage of Rider’s tight-knit community to make that vision a reality.
“Having a small community gives you a lot of resources for campus involvement that can help guide you and just help you grow as a person. You know you’re not just a number; people know you by your first name, and people get to make those connections that will lead them to the right path,” said Rush.
Rush has made a plethora of connections at Rider that have impacted the student body. He’s involved in the Student Government Association (SGA) as campus life committee chair, a lead tour guide, an orientation leader, a member of Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honors society, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honors Society, a member of the criminal justice club and president of Rider University Veterans Association.
Rush is also a part of the Leadership Development Program, which allows him to graduate with a certificate of leadership.
Two of the most impactful positions that Rush has held on campus have been an orientation leader and a tour guide. Rush mentioned that the gratitude he has received from students he mentored made him feel accomplished in his mission to leave his mark on the Rider community.
“Darren truly made a huge impact on my Rider experience before coming here in the fall. He helped me navigate my ways around the school and also gave me great tips on which classes would best fit my needs,” said freshman marketing major Amanda Larosa, a student from Rush’s orientation group. “Besides helping me understand how classes and the campus works, he would try to make a connection with all of us.”
As a result of Rush’s efforts to individualize the orientation experience, he was the reason that many students not only came to Rider, but had an urge to be involved.
Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Hannah Ford recognized Rush’s influence on students after hearing that many who applied to be tour guides mentioned him as the reason they decided to.
“Darren has made a huge impact on our current tour guide team and he is continuing to leave his legacy by helping to recruit the next group of Rider tour guides,” said Ford. “While interviewing new tour guides this month, several of them mentioned Darren as the reason why they want to be a tour guide.”
Students have also verbally expressed their appreciation for Rush’s efforts, which has motivated him to continue his work in leadership.
“Watching them connect to other students and envision their next four years with a friend group is the best part of being an orientation leader; just knowing I left my mark,” said Rush. “I remember at orientation a student came up to me and said ‘You were my orientation leader. You changed my life, thank you,’ and that gave me the chills a little bit, but knowing that I helped someone make a decision for the rest of their life was the best part about it.”
A factor that influenced Rush’s desire to be involved was the COVID-19 pandemic when lack of communication was a major obstacle.
“You don’t really realize what you have until it’s gone, and when the pandemic hit, it was hard to collaborate with people, whether that be family, friends, classmates, professors; anything like that. So collaboration is something that I learned to strengthen and become stronger with before coming back to college,” said Rush.
On top of his obligations to serve the organizations, Rush has helped out with the Student Entertainment Council (SEC), hosted season 13 of R Factor, along with Rider’s Got Talent and Cranberry Fest.
Associate Dean of Campus Life Nicholas Barbati, who has grown close with Rush over the years, said in an email to The Rider News, “Darren has been such a wonderful role model for students from literally their first days at Rider through his work as a tour guide and an Orientation Leader and has extended that impact throughout the entire campus community. Through his many leadership roles, Darren is truly a kind, welcoming student that embodies the community spirit of Rider University.”
Rush’s goal has been to be a special agent or detective since he was a child, and is currently in the hiring process with a federal government entity for a special agent position, although, he was not allowed to disclose any further information.
Rush is in his second semester with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office under the criminal justice division, where he works with the police training commission with investigators, training staff and curriculum development staff. He works in conjunction with all 530 police agencies and 16 police academies in New Jersey.
“It doesn’t feel real that I am living up to my dream yet,” said Rush.
Victor Thompson, professor and criminal justice chair, was pleased with Rush’s performance over the years and the dedication he has put into his future.
“I think he’s really been an asset to the department at the student level so hopefully he’ll keep in touch with us when he leaves,” said Thompson.
When given the chance to say one piece of advice that he would like to leave the Rider community with, Rush promoted the concept of the unknown to be healthy in the midst of building one’s best self.
“Try different things; that’s what I would recommend to everyone that’s coming into college,” said Rush. “Just to open yourself up and make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow.”
This mindset is what brought him to achieving his goal in college that he will continue to do for the rest of his life.
“I value making a difference,” said Rush. “That is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and I don’t know to what capacity, but I’ve always wanted to leave a mark and make a difference in the world somehow.”
This article is part of the Senior Spotlight series by The Rider News to showcase the college experience and future plans of seniors on campus.