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Alumni Spotlight: Alfonzo Washington

Our first alumni spotlight for February 2020 is Alfonzo Washington, a graduate of Woodland High School (2012) and of Albany State University (2016). He currently works as a teacher at Henry County Schools and has recently joined the 21CL Junior Board of Directors.

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now

I currently work as a middle school teacher in Henry County Schools, I serve as team lead for my grade and I coach football and basketball. I have also served as a Summer Leadership Team member three times and I plan to continue every summer for as long as the organization will have me

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

When I attended the first summer institute (EarthCare) I was reserved and didn’t have much understanding of what my purpose was or why I was chosen to be part of this illustrious program. By the time I was a senior and participating in my final summer institute- Leadership Unplugged (now Youth Media Institute), I had accomplished so many things in school that have a direct correlation to my involvement with 21st Century Leaders. The program made me into the man I am today by instilling confidence in me and helping me find my passion of working with youth and inspiring the next generation the way my 21CL staff did for me. Serving on the Summer Leadership Team brings back good memories for me while creating new memories seeing the next generation excel.

I owe 21st Century Leaders a lot for developing me as a leader and as a man. Being a 21st Century Leader is one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life. I love the organization and I will always do what I can to support the program.

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?

I have been blessed to accomplish great milestones in my collegiate and professional careers and I credit 21st Century Leaders for it.  During my college years I was challenged with being a Holley Ambassador, my responsibility in this organization was to serve as a tour guide for incoming freshmen and transfer students. I also served as a mentor for new students and today, I still have a relationship with many of my mentees. I am most proud of serving as president of my fraternity- Beta Psi chapter, I earned the trust of my brothers to lead them and be the face of the organization when I was new in the fraternity. As a professional I have been a football coach, basketball coach for my school and been awarded the Stockbridge Middle School Teacher of the Month title at least once in each of the last three years. If it had not been for the leadership and professionalism I learned from 21st Century Leaders I would not be where I am today.

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

During high school I had the pleasure of being involved with 21st Century leaders from the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2011. During those years I went to EVERY summer leadership institute; G5 at Goizueta (now SYLI), Leadership Unplugged, Leadership Plugged In, Earthcare at Berry, as well as, the Georgia Southern program. I also went to all the school-year events and had the pleasure of serving on the Youth Ambassadors each year in the program. All of the 21st Century Leaders programs had a great impact on my life both personally and professionally.

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.?

What I can’t forget is presenting my first project with my team at EarthCare in 2009, it was my first time presenting in front of judges with a group! Having to lean on a group of individuals outside of a sporting platform was interesting and also showed me how I could incorporate my athletic competitiveness to other aspects of life.

Something else that I can’t forget is meeting great instructors and youth workers who helped guide me in the right direction. I am still thankful to those individuals which is why I work so hard to do the same for others. Whether it is a week at Georgia Tech working with our SYLI students, or a week in my sixth grade social studies class, my goal is the same, give my all to these kids!

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!

Key principles of leadership that I learned from 21CL and that I apply most in my professional career are passion, service-oriented and forward-thinking. These traits have played a pivotal role in my leadership development journey. Passion is in everything I do whether it is acknowledged or not because I always want the people that I work with to know that I care and will be there for them. I think having passion in what you do and being unapologetic about it is important because people will always know where you stand. Every achievement I have made is because I was passionate in what I was doing, I worked hard and believed in myself and others took note of that passion. I was lucky enough to be recognized for that but I still would have the same passion even without recognition. When it comes to service-oriented forward-thinking, it is the very reason I chose the Education profession. I truly believe in the next generation and feel that it is my duty to arm the next leaders with the tools they need to succeed in life.

I plan to do more studies and specialize in education and to one day open a school with a focus on performing arts and athletics for low income and talented kids who face barriers to display their talents. I have worked with many students who have athletic or arts talent and many of them rely on those talents to get them to where they want to be and forget about the importance of performing well in school.