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Alumni Spotlight: Keyla Cabret-Lewis

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
: Keyla Cabret-Lewis
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1997
High School: Carver High School (Columbus, GA)
College: Columbus State University
Current Role: Vice President, DEI + Talent Development, Aflac

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?

I started in corporate America very young -a sophomore in High School- so going into the 21st Century Leaders program was very timely and appropriate development training for me.  Some of lessons that I learned during the program were brand new but more importantly much of the content in the program detailed working in teams, etiquette, etc., and I was already experiencing this at work.  This made the program very applicable and appealing.

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.)

It’s hard to pick one moment out of the experience…this was my 1st time away from my home overnight and meeting teens from out of town was not common so the exposure to so many different young people of like minds was cool.  That we were all there to learn about being leaders was eye opening too…so many commonalities, many differences but we all wanted to do more for ourselves, families, communities.  Humbling even at that age.

Keyla is third in from right at a 21CL summer institute.

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

I would say that the fact the organization still exists with the sole purpose to lift young people up and teach them more about leadership and themselves…that’s an effective leadership characteristic that I believe in.

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

Programs like 21st Century Leaders are key to the development of young people’s soft skills. Many times, academia focuses on technical skills but does not always spend time on the skills that help young people interact with adults during interviews, during lunches/dinners, communicate with people via email professionally, work as a team…all these skills are critical in the workplace and lead to success.  Why not start cultivating these skills in high school.  I often tell young people that I come across, “find a good internship, co-op, or program that can help you prepare for the workplace”.  21st Century Leaders does that and more.