Shedding Light on Black Excellence: Kayelena Brimage
By Tristan E. M. Leach
For senior Kayelena Brimage there is nothing like learning and gaining experience. Brimage, a senior majoring in entrepreneurial studies, has been through her fair share of experiences that have prepared her for the future.
From a young age, Brimage knew she wanted to be her own boss and have her own business. The idea of being an entrepreneur was instilled in Brimage from a young age since her mother owns and operates her own daycare.
“Just growing up and seeing her own her own business, I was like ‘I can not work for people.’ I have to be like her and own my own business and lead a team,” said Brimage.
Brimage has been given the opportunity to lead a team at Saxbys. Brimage was chosen to be this semester’s Student CEO (SCEO) at Saxbys. Brimage and other hand-selected SCEOs trained for a week to prepare for the role. The group was trained by previous SCEOs who now work for Saxbys on a corporate level.
Before applying for the position, Brimage had not worked for Saxbys, but always wanted to. Brimage believed that the opportunity to be a leader and learn to run a cafe would better prepare her for her future aspiration: opening her own restaurant someday.
“I was always interested in Saxbys when it first came to campus. I applied, I just didn’t get the CEO position. I knew around sophomore year that I wanted to open a restaurant,” said Brimage. “So I knew that this would be the same exact experience as the restaurant business. That’s why I wanted to work at Saxbys, because I’m getting this kind of free pass to get the mentorship and leadership that I need in order to own my own restaurant.”
Brimage was excited to get the opportunity to become the SCEO and said that she believes this experience will give her a better understanding and chance of succeeding in the restaurant world.
Saxbys isn’t the only experience Brimage has had that has taught her leadership skills and how to lead a team. Brimage is president of Rider University Greek Council (RUGC) and a sister of Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA).
Brimage decided to rush Greek Life because of COVID-19 and the fact that she had lost so much time to make friends. Brimage wanted to find a community she could be a part of and make a difference in.
“In high school I was involved in everything, and my freshman year. I was kind of going with the flow, and I was like ‘I want to be involved in something and be part of a community bigger than myself.’ That’s why I joined Greek life,” said Brimage.
Brimage became a sister of ZTA and found that there was so much to love about the organization. Above all, Brimage loves the people and emphasized that what makes it what it is.
Brimage said, “It really is a sisterhood, and I feel like I belong. Even though it’s not a community I’m used to as much, because I am a black woman in a predominately-white sorority, they make me feel included, and they make me feel seen.”
Seen she is, as Brimage was awarded one of four highest honors in ZTA. Brimage holds the award Zeta Lady. This award is given to a sister who lives by the words and motto of ZTA.
“It [Zeta Lady] is a strong woman figure that the chapter can look at and feel empowered by. I feel like that award is the essence of ZTA, and I am really proud to have it because other women in the chapter look at me as that woman,” said Brimage.
Brimage is not only a leader in her sorority but also in Rider University Greek Council (RUGC), which oversees all councils of Greek life at Rider University. The council is in essence the Student Government Association (SGA) for Greek Life.
Ryan Marut, a senior finance major, is Brimage’s executive vice president of RUGC and a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Marut and Brimage were selected by a slating committee. The two first met when they joined Greek life. They got close last year when they started working together on the RUGC board.
“The first thing that is great about Kayelena is she’s always attentive. She always gives her 100% no matter what. She does a great job being involved on campus with RUGC, she served as the executive vice president last year. She has a great deal of knowledge and what the board needs to look like. She’s involved in ZTA as well as she’s the CEO of Saxbys. She does a lot of cool things in the community,” said Marut.
All of this experience has prepared Brimage for her dream, to own a soul food restaurant. She has been saving money for years to fund her dream, and she knows that all of her hard work will not be in vain. She has taken every opportunity with grace, compassion and fierce leadership, and the world has yet to see everything Brimage has to offer.
This article is part of the Shedding Light on Black Excellence, a February series by The Rider News to showcase impactful Black figures at Rider University.
Olivia Nicoletti and Hannah Newman are sisters of ZTA and editors for The Rider News. Niether had any part in the editing or writing of this piece.