Learning and Leading in DC
I originally heard about America’s Promise Alliance after working as a team leader at the Simon Foundations Summer leadership retreat. I was e-mailed with information regarding the application and after further research on their website, I found myself very excited to apply. When I received notice that I had been chosen to serve on the Board of Directors, I could barely contain my joy. The idea that I could make a serious change in young people’s lives with this organization became a reality in my life. I instantly e-mailed my family at the Simon Foundation, and thanked them for recommending me to apply. As the weeks crept closer to the board meeting I found myself nervous, for I did not know what to expect. What exactly should I bring to the meeting? Should I do more research on educational programs in America? What exactly would be expected of me at the meeting? My best friend helped to calm my nerves, and told me I would be fine; just wait until I get there and be myself.
On the day of the meeting I found myself in Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, Ga. Upon arrival at my flight gate, it was brought to my attention that I had missed my flight. Although bummed about the later arrival time, I was thankful that I was able to change my flight without any service charge and not much more wait time. My flight landed in D.C. around 2:00 p.m., and the nervousness returned. I did not know anything about this mysterious city that I had been so excited to get to.
The first task was finding a way to my hotel, and after questioning a few locals I found out how to take a taxi. Although my first cab ride was a little short of an adventure, I found myself bubbling with anticipation as I pulled up to my hotel. The hotel that had been reserved for me was the Donovan House, and it was quite impressive. The King Deluxe room that I was supposed to stay in was not ready upon my arrival so I was bumped to the Penthouse suite with no extra charge! I quickly changed and prepared for my tour of the Alliance office.
As I left the hotel, I became overwhelmingly aware that I was in D.C. In the distance I could see the Washington Monument mooring over the city. As I walked into the office I was greeted with welcoming faces and smiles. As soon as I entered the conference room, all sense of nervousness left my body, and I found myself comfortably conversing with a great group of people that worked for the Alliance. Each individual had a particular story of what brought him or her to work their current position and each person had a different role, that fit a bigger picture. As I listened I continued to hear each person say to remember that I was a part of the board; I would be seated at the table with the same voice and voting power as everyone else.
That evening, after preparing for the Journalism Awards, myself as well as Ms. Ekoo Beck were given a quick tour of the city by Ms. Cody Ruxton. She shared with us amazing facts about the city, as well as her life and I knew then that she was a great person. She showed us genuine care, and ensured through our whole trip that we were taken care of, and that all our questions were answered. Once at the National Press Club, I was able to meet many prominent members of the community as well as the other Board members. I had the privilege of eating with Reverend Goode, as well as Mr. Gallagher, both of whom provided me with very interesting insight on the politics of the present time.
The next day was the board meeting. That morning, I prepared myself, constantly checking myself in the mirror to make sure I looked in tip-top shape for the encounters I would face that day. I made it to the office, where I met my first spill of coffee on my jacket. I laughed it off, and began mingling with the people who had arrived. As I sat at the table, waiting for the meeting to start, I looked around at all the people who were there. Everyone was there for the same reason; we all cared about the youth and wanted to ensure their future success.
Although the board meeting was not long, I was able to express my opinions, without feeling judged or looked down upon for my lack of experience. My ideas were welcomed, and even expounded upon by other members of the board. By noon many of the board members had become aware of my previous missed flight, so although they wanted me to stay until the end they all encouraged me to get to the airport early. I was reluctant to leave, but knew that I needed to get back to Athens because now the real work would begin! I honestly never expected to have such a great time and experience in D.C., especially in two days! America’s Promise Alliance has become a new addition to my life, and although my term is only for a year, they will be a part of me forever.