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Alumni Spotlight: Akash Shah

The first Alumni Spotlight for September 2020 is Akash Shah, a graduate of Chamblee Charter High School (2013) and of University of Georgia (2017). He is currently a first-year law student at University of Georgia School of Law. Akash volunteered as an Alumni Roundtable Speaker during the recently concluded 2020 Virtual Summer Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI), as well as at SYLI in 2019.

Paint a brief picture of what you’re doing now.

I’m currently a first-year law student at the University of Georgia School of Law on scholarship. I spent the previous two years, post-graduation, serving as the Vice President of sales at Vestigo – a small Atlanta-based company that utilizes action adventure sports and virtual reality to help companies become more innovative.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

Participating in 21CL was the catalyst that helped me find my voice and lead through the many extracurriculars I participated in during my time in undergrad. Without 21CL, I never would’ve had the confidence, skill, or discernment that’s required of a leader. These skills helped me succeed in my undergraduate studies, extracurricular activities, and ultimately led to my employment and subsequently my acceptance to some of the top law schools in the country.

 How did 21CL prepare you for your next steps? Going into college and taking on leadership roles, heading into a new era of professionalism, etc. What skills/tools/perspectives have helped you along the way?

As a first-generation (American) college student, without 21CL, I never would’ve understood the level of professionalism required in certain settings. Through my participation in dinners, presentations, and roundtables as part of the camp, I was able to fine tune my “professional voice.” This allowed me the confidence to speak to administrators, admissions counselors, and business leaders about pressing issues.

 Which programs did you participate in, and when? What skills did you gain or improve through those programs?

From 2009-2013 I participated in EarthCare, Leadership Plugged-In, and Leadership Unplugged (the latter two known now as the WarnerMedia Institute for Future Leaders). Each of these experiences helped me gain something different. Mainly, though, I would say each of these camps helped build my confidence and aptitude as a leader. Before 21CL, I didn’t understand the importance of leading from behind, but after participating in each of these camps I learned how, often times, the best leaders are those that do so from behind.

 What was a memorable or ‘aha’ moment in 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peers, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?

The most memorable experience of my participation in 21CL, was my participation in our capstone project presentation as part of Leadership Unplugged. We were able to present an issue of importance (as a group) to a panel of CNN executives who gave us feedback on the issue and our presentation style and skills. This was when I first felt I found my voice. It was the constructive feedback and the repeated positive feedback that gave me the confidence to then use my voice in other instances and led me to lead numerous organizations through my time in Undergrad and helped me feel confident in situations where I was the youngest in the room.

 Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? if so how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!

Akash Shah volunteering with other 21CL alumni at the Alumni Roundtables at SYLI 2020

21CL taught me what it meant to be a leader and how to lead – effectively building the foundation for my current leadership style. Through experiences like capstone presentations and sharpening the saw – I learned to be reserved and refined in the way I lead and have (hopefully) impacted those around me in a positive way. Over the past few years, I’ve learned the importance of self-care in leadership. It’s tough to lead others when you’re not able to lead yourself.