Most influential students: Payton and Kandice Head

It’s hard to look around campus and not see Payton and Kandice Head. Between the two of them, they represent the university and its students in an extensive list of organizations. To name just a few: Missouri Students Association, Alumni Association Student Board, Tour Team, Summer Welcome and Mizzou After Dark.

The twins came to MU from Chicago much different people than the ones leaving MU. Payton was just beginning to learn about social justice issues and never dreamed he’d be MSA president or receive national attention for standing up against social injustices. Kandice, now the vice president of the MU chapter of National Association of Black Journalists and a mentor to many underclassmen, used to be a quiet girl who wrote poetry in the back of the classroom.

Many students look up to these two in their respective roles, but Kandice’s mentorship is something her brother is especially proud of.

“There are so many people that look up to Kandice on a daily basis,” Payton said. “So many people around her say ‘I want to be like her.’ You can have a fancy resume, but if you haven’t inspired someone else to be better, then what does it really mean? She’s been able to do that very well on this campus.”

People look up to Payton, too. He made national news several times for speaking out against racism and social injustices, turning the most powerful student position on campus into a microphone that sparked a national movement. Payton leaves behind a legacy of “see something, say something.” He urged students to do so in his viral Facebook post about campus discrimination.

“Throughout everything last fall, people said, ‘If Mizzou is such a bad place, go someplace else,’ and they completely missed the point of me speaking out,” Payton said. “It’s not because I hate this place. It’s because I love it.”

Payton and Kandice grew up with a mother who fostered their passion for servitude and “would give the shirt off her back if it was the last and only thing she has,” Kandice said.

“She wanted to give us everything that she didn’t have,” Kandice said. “We’re very involved because we don’t know what it’s like not to be involved. There was a time when we were homeless but we still fed people through our church because our mom said ‘there’s always someone who’s worse off than you.’”

Now, they leave MU decorated with several awards for their contributions to campus. Kandice won the Mizzou Black Women Rock Award and the Karen Bass Prospective Congressional Award, and she was the 2016 Student Auxiliary Services student employee of the year. Payton won several awards for his work with the MSA Social Justice committee, the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Emerging Leadership, and the NAACP Image Award, among others.

But beyond those awards and their jam-packed resumes, the two are most proud of who the other is as a person. And looking back, they wouldn’t do anything differently.

“Looking at the past and having regrets keeps you from moving forward, so I take everything that happens to me good or bad as a life lesson,” Payton said. “I wouldn’t do anything differently because everything that has gone on has helped me get to where I am today.”

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