Frequent Faces: SGA president enjoys Persian culture

SGA President Keyana Boka

Jacob Parker

Her office is located on the bottom floor of Cravens Library, filled with couches, tables and a desk where she works. Occasionally, one may see students napping on the couches, studying at the tables or grabbing SafeRide bottle openers or Dum-Dums out of the cups on her desk. 

As SGA president, Keyana Boka spends a fair amount of time in the office.

A Bowling Green native, she grew up knowing that she would attend WKU. Her parents, however, traveled across the world to make that choice.

“They came to WKU as international students in the ‘70s from Iran, so we’re Persian,” she said. “They’ve been here longer than they lived there.”

Despite being born and raised in the United States, Boka said she still celebrates and maintains her Persian culture as well.

“Being Persian is a well-integrated part of my life,” she said. “I speak Farsi Persian, (it’s) primarily spoken in Iran. I can speak it, read it, write it.”

Throughout the year, she and her family celebrate Persian culture in a variety of ways.

“We celebrate Persian new year every year in March — it’s called Nowruz,” she said.

Nowruz consists of a celebration that involves cleaning your house and adorning it with a variety of colors, as well as leaping over a fire.

“There’s a blessing you do for the new year and then you jump over the fire,” she said. “it’s symbolic — the bad goes into the fire and the good comes out of it.”

There are several celebrations in bigger cities like Nashville, but with no public celebration in Bowling Green, Boka and her family use their driveway to place the fire.

“We have multiple fires in the driveway,” she said, jokingly. “We probably scare the neighbors.” 

Having been to Iran a few times, Boka was able to learn more about the country, but scheduling conflicts make it difficult to visit very often. She enjoys still being able to learn about the culture by being surrounded by it during celebrations or during parties in the United States.

“It’s always great that I can keep up with my Farsi that way,” she said. “Sometimes I feel too American. Some things I learn about Persian culture that’s new to me too. I try to keep it balanced.”

“Keyana” itself is a Persian name, she said.

“It means elements of nature. My mom wanted a name that was both Persian and American,” Boka said. “She didn’t want it to be hard to pronounce here, and she liked the name.”

Boka, the youngest in a large family of WKU alumni, had always planned to come to WKU.

“It was almost inevitable because I felt such a strong sense of connection to WKU,” she said. “I knew from day one I wanted to be involved, and SGA was something I wanted to be involved in.”

Being the SGA president has been integral part of Boka’s life in college, in terms of both creating who she is and how she deals with things. With four years of daily challenges, classes in pre-med biology and being a part of many organizations, Boka sees the difference in her character.

“Looking back now to who I was, I can definitely see a lot of changes,” she said. “It’s helped me grow as a person by dealing with different things.”

Currently shadowing an OB-GYN and researching medical schools to apply to after graduating in the spring, Boka plans to make sure that whatever she does in life, political or medical, she helps people.

“Helping goes both ways,” she said. “Motivation is key in whatever I do. On a day to day basis, whatever I do, [I think] ‘What’s the outcome of this? Am I passionate about it?’”