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Alumni Spotlight: Edward Freeman

21CL Alumnus Edward Freeman is our second spotlight for November 2021. A graduate of Thomasville High School (2017), and currently a final year student at Georgia Institute of Technology (2021), he was recently recognized as one of Georgia Tech’s 2021 Faces Of Inclusive Excellence Honorees for his book “Standing: Stand on Who You Were Created To Be.” In his acceptance note Edward said that as a student he strives to make impact in the classroom, amongst peers and through his entrepreneurial works.

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

I am approaching graduation from Georgia Tech in December with a dual-degree Bachelors of Science in Biology and Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies with concentrations in Pre-Medicine and Spanish. Over the last summer, I interned at Bayer Pharmaceuticals as an Upstream Process Development Intern in Berkeley, California. After graduation, I plan on taking a gap year to conduct biotechnology research while I apply to medical school. Outside of school, I actively speak to youth audiences on topics such as self-empowerment, education, socioemotional health, and anti-bullying awareness. In the Spring of 2020 I published my first book Standing: Stand on Who You Were Created To Be“, a self-empowerment book for Gen Z and Millenials. Additionally, I tutor students in Spanish Language and STEM-related subjects.

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

21CL gave me the confidence to step into leadership roles and speak to large crowds without any fear. Before participating in 21CL, I did not have exposure to programs to enhance my professional development skills. I grew up in rural South Georgia, and participating in programs like 21CL was rare and unheard of. Coming to Atlanta and being on Georgia Tech’s campus while at TVYMI [a summer leadership institute], I felt inspired to think outside of the box and take advantage of every single opportunity that was placed in front of me. My experience at TVYMI encouraged me to apply to Georgia Tech, and this is one of the reasons why I am a student here today! In addition, I gained more confidence in speaking in professional settings as well as networking.  It also felt great to be surrounded by a diverse group of like-minded peers, many of whom I still keep in contact with to this day. I will always cherish my experience at 21CL because for the first time, as a sophomore in high school, I saw what I was capable of, and was forever changed from that moment on.

Which programs did you participate in? How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college, taking on new leadership roles in your community, college, and after

I participated in the 2015 Turner Voices Youth Media Institute (TVYMI), currently known as WarnerMedia Institute for Future Leaders, at Georgia Tech and the 2017 Goizueta Youth Leadership Summit hosted at Emory University. One of the key skills that I learned at TVYMI is how to operate in a team and to create formal presentations. As a Biology and Spanish major, I often have to present research presentations and by participating in 21CL, I learned my stage presence and how to articulate key points from my presentation. In addition, I have served on Georgia Tech’s African American Student Union Executive Board as Community Outreach Co-Chair. I was able to incorporate the team-building skills learned at 21CL while being on an E-board. Equally as important, I learned how to operate in professional settings. As a Georgia Tech Student Ambassador, I often interact with alumni and school faculty in business and social settings. My experience at 21CL prepared me to network and interact in corporate environments at a young age. Learning certain skills such as a firm handshake, making eye contact, and even knowledge of conversation starters assisted me greatly stepping into the student ambassador role. The skills learned during my experience as a 21CL student have greatly helped me in professional conferences, corporate internships, and during interviews.

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

 My ‘aha’ moments in 21CL came from first arriving at the 2015 TVYMI and interacting with like minded peers from diverse backgrounds. For the first time in my life, I met people that had similar interests and goals. Coming from a small town, I had big dreams, and oftentimes, felt alone because not many people around me thought the way I did. The initial moments at TVYMI showed me that outside of my hometown, there is a community of like minded peers that have big dreams to cultivate change throughout the state of Georgia and the entire world.

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!

Absolutely! 21CL taught me a lot about servant leadership and how to be an effective and emotionally intelligent leader.  The realization that leadership is more about lifting others up as you climb than it is being on a platform came while participating in 21CL. During the speed networking events, I would see professionals take time to serve and pour into students. Seeing this at 16 inspired me to lead in the same way. Throughout my undergraduate leadership positions, I found myself in spaces where I am serving underclassmen or grade school students.

I was even able to find ways to serve students from where I grew up. This fall, I gave two academic book scholarships to African-American Male students from Southwest Georgia from my book. My experience at 21CL gave me the fundamental skills to become an effective leader, and over time these skills grew into what they are today.