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Alumni Spotlight: Cisely Marshall

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how 21st Century Leaders inspired and impacted their journey. Alumni will represent the 3.5 decades since our founding in 1989 – the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Take a read and be inspired!

35th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight


1990’s Decade
: Cisely Marshall
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1997
High School: George Washington Carver High School (Columbus, GA)
College: University of Georgia
Current Role: Science Teacher, Maynard Jackson High School 

How has your career unfolded and how did participating in 21CL help prepare you for your next steps going to college, taking on a new leadership role in community/college and after?

My teaching career has been a fulfilling journey marked by continuous growth and learning. Participating in the 21st Century Leaders was a pivotal experience that significantly contributed to my professional development. Before delving into my college journey and subsequent leadership roles, the program provided me with valuable insights into effective leadership strategies, communication skills, and the ability to navigate diverse educational landscapes.

As I transitioned to college, skilled acquired from 21CL played a crucial role in shaping my approach to academia. The program not only honed my organizational and time management skills but also instilled in me a sense of responsibility and dedication to fostering a positive learning environment. These qualities proved instrumental in my college and career experiences, allowing me to excel in my academic pursuits and collaborate effectively with peers.

What’s your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peer, speaking in public for the first time, etc.)

My most memorable moments include nurturing long lasting friendships with participants at Gordon College in Barnesville, it was there that I learned the song American Pie by Don McLean, stepping outside of my comfort zone and participating in teambuilding activities, but the most important skill set that I gained was learning to network amongst professionals.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how?

Participating in 21CL has been instrumental in shaping my leadership style within the classroom, ultimately contributing to my effectiveness as a leader. The program provided me with a multifaceted toolkit of skills and insights that I seamlessly integrated into my approach to education.

One of the key aspects emphasized during my 21CL years was the importance of fostering a positive and inclusive environment. This principle greatly influenced my leadership style, inspiring me to create a classroom atmosphere where students feel valued, supported, and encouraged to express their thoughts. By prioritizing inclusivity, I have observed increased engagement and collaboration among students, creating a more dynamic and enriching educational experience.

Why do you believe programs like 21CL are important? And what advice would you give to a current or future student?

I believe 21CL plays a pivotal role in the holistic development of the youth. They empower students by providing them with essential leadership skills, fostering self-confidence, and nurturing a sense of responsibility; students gain valuable experience in teamwork, communication, and problem-solving, all of which are fundamental aspects of effective leadership.

Moreover, 21CL offers a platform for personal growth and self-discovery. Participants often explore and develop their strengths, passions, and leadership styles in a supportive and encouraging environment. This self-awareness is not only beneficial for their immediate roles but also lays a strong foundation for their future endeavors, be it in academics, career, or community engagement. For current or future students engaging in 21CL, my advice would be to approach the experience with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Take advantage of every opportunity to develop new skills, collaborate with diverse peers, and embrace challenges as learning opportunities.

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