“My Life Unpacked” is a recurring series inspired by Pointe Magazine’s “Show and Tell,” which features leaders from various groups on Penn’s campus. By detailing the items these outstanding students deem worthy of carrying around, I’ll try to unpack the passions and activities that have allowed them to grow.
f you’re a senior, you’ve definitely gotten an email (or seventeen) from him, or seen him rubbing elbows with Amy G., but what does a Class Board President and this year’s Mr. Penn keep in his everyday bag? I recently sat down with Darren Tomasso (C’17) to talk about his accomplishments and takeaways from the past four years.
So let’s start off with the items you’ve brought with you today. Can you pick a few and tell me why they are important?
Darren Tomasso: So first, we have the 2017 Class Sweater, which is the classic Penn sweatshirt. It has a lot of significance because it’s something that our class looks forward to since Freshman year, and it represents the first time everyone’s back together at the beginning of Junior year. For me, it really materializes the idea of building connections. Plus, it’s just really soft.
Next, there’s the tennis racket. I’ve been on the club tennis team since Sophomore year, and it’s been really cool to play a sport on campus with a ton of friends in a relaxed environment.
I also have my medal from the Mr. Penn Bodybuilding Competition. This was the second year that I did the competition, and I came in first for the short class men category and placed second overall against the winner of the tall class. This was very significant to me because fitness has been such a huge part of my life ever since I started playing sports at 5 years old. When I started working out freshman year of high school, it opened a up a ton of doors for me and led me to renew my passion for training and teaching others fitness. That’s also why I’ve brought my Trainer shirt with me today.
A lot of these items seem to represent your time as the 2017 Class Board President. Have you always been involved with student government?
DT: Surprisingly not! Freshman year of high school, I ran for president and did not win. So no, it hasn’t been throughout my life. But coming to Penn, I ran for president because I really loved the traditions and the events that I heard about during admissions tours or from the school website and really wanted to play a part in planning class events.
Looking back, would you have done anything differently throughout your campaign?
DT: I don’t think so. When I ran freshman year, I did it without any social media. A lot of people had been in the Facebook groups since they’d been admitted, but I’m glad I didn’t use as many social platforms because it forced me to go door to door and meet people. I got to hear firsthand the type of events they wanted and what they wanted out of Class Board. I made some of my closest friends while campaigning, so I really wouldn’t have done anything differently.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from being an active leader at Penn?
DT: It’s a little hard to explain, but the first thing I’ve learned is to never take yourself too seriously. Take everyday and enjoy every single moment, even when things are stressful.
I’ve also learned the importance of “we” vs. “I.” I haven’t accomplished anything. As a board, we’ve really accomplished a lot. It’s all about being a team player. I was in an interview last year for OCR, and the interviewer asked what I had done as Class Board President. I talked about holding the most class events and listed off the number of sweatshirts sold, but he wasn’t satisfied without an “I” statement. My philosophy is that we did all these things together no matter what as a collective team. In the end, the interviewer didn’t really appreciate that and I didn’t get the job, but my values still stand.
Any ideas on what you’re doing post-graduation?
DT: I’m on a consulting club here and this summer I worked for a startup, but over winter break, I really sat down to look into jobs and sort of realized, “I don’t want to do this.” I follow some fitness professionals on Instagram and throughout my browsing, I knew that I wanted to continue my passions with fitness and training. So I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but it will be in that area.
That’s great! And I know you have some experience as a trainer at Pottruck. What’s it like training others versus yourself?
DT: It’s hard. So a little bit of background, I first started lifting freshman year of high school and sophomore year, I was first exposed to personal training when I helped my mom with her weight loss goals. After that, I had a lot of nagging injuries, so I spent a lot of time in the trainer’s office learning how people recover. So, fitness has been a big part of my life that I’ve really loved. Coming to Penn and doing more one-on-one training, it’s been difficult because I’m used to my type of training and specific goals. People have such different aspirations, but it’s been a nice challenge to research and continue learning how to help people on an individual level. It’s one thing to be able to do something yourself, but a whole other [thing] to teach someone else a healthy lifestyle.
Do you have advice for people interested in pursuing fitness?
DT: Specialize in having a niche, whether that be cardio or strength and conditioning. Finding the right niche definitely comes from what you love and what you’re passionate about. Personally, I don’t have one yet, so I’m spending time reading and figuring out my niche in particular.
What was harder, winning Mr. Penn or winning Class Board elections?
DT: *Pauses* Hm, I’m gonna pick the Class Board election. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I think the Mr. Penn Competition was more about myself and what I’ve done to train or get myself comfortable on stage, while running for Class Board president was so much bigger than that. There’s 2500 people in the class to plan events for and uphold some of the school’s biggest traditions. So, I think that Class Board is just bigger and less about the self.
Is there a lot of pressure that comes from being Class Board President?
DT: There’s pressure, but I get to work with 11 other people from diverse parts of campus who are passionate and ran for a reason. It’s a really supportive group and when we make a big decision, we don’t just decide within ourselves, we ask our roommates and closest friends. I think it’s really important that our board is so diverse that we can get a lot of different ideas and opinions.
What’s on your senior year bucket list?
DT: A very wise senior once told me not to create a bucket list. He felt as though it was overambitious and that if he didn’t complete everything, then his senior year wouldn’t be as fulfilling. So of course there’s certain things, like holding a kickass Feb Club or Walnut Walk, but those are going to happen no matter what. In general though, it’s taking every moment by stride and just enjoying it. Whatever pops up, pops up. So, I want to take those opportunities to do new things and make new friends because this is the last time we’re going to be together in a place where we all have the common ground of Penn.
Do you plan to attend every Feb Club event?
DT: Oh, no doubt! We’ve been planning these events since the end of spring semester and we’re all so excited about them.
Images courtesy of Jiyoung Song.