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Alumni Spotlight: Manny Elsar, Jr.

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21CL Alumni Spotlight: Manny Elsar, Jr.

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You wouldn’t know it now, but before participating in 21st Century Leaders, Manny Elsar, Jr. held himself back from talking to the people he could learn from. Then, he attended Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience (which has since evolved into Turner Voices Youth Media Institute) in 2012, and the art of conversation was unlocked!

How did participating in 21CL change you and/or lead you to where you are now?

21CL was the catalyst to a number of leadership positions I’ve had on campus. Leadership Unplugged brought me out my comfort zone by introducing me to a different set of influential people in the field I wanted to go into in high school. (Funny enough, I don’t do anything in journalism in college but in the future I’d love to be on news shows like Bloomberg and CNNMoney discussing economic policies!) I think the number one thing that 21CL taught me was that networking is key in a work setting. If you don’t leave a business setting without learning the story of at least one person there, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

What was your most memorable moment in 21CL? 

My most memorable moment in 21CL was the salsa dancing! It was a nice way to unwind from the other aspects of the week, and it taught me something new that I’d never experienced before. This was four years ago, but I also remember meeting Carl Azuz.

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 tools or perspectives have helped you along the way?

One thing that 21CL does well on a consistent basis is making sure its students are prepared to enter the world as young professionals, no matter what field they enter. I distinctly remember feeling so empowered after the week at Georgia Tech because it showed me that people who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds like myself were not just living, but thriving in their careers. I’ve brought that sense of comradery I felt in 21CL and brought it to organizations that I’ve been a part of at UGA. 

A critical tool that I gained from 21CL was the ability to “work a room.” Before Leadership Unplugged, I was very timid and never really tried to break free from the mold that I created for myself (quiet, does well in school and nothing more). After 21CL, I remember my parents talking about how I became a lot more outgoing and willing to just talk to people. If there’s one thing that we can all improve on as young professionals, it’s the art of conversation. Knowing when to let other people guide the discussion or speaking up when it makes sense is a skill that I’m still honing to this day, but it never would have started without my experiences in 21CL. For that, I’m forever grateful.

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Manny Elsar, Jr. is a senior at the University of Georgia studying Economics & International Affairs with a minor in Spanish. He graduated from Etowah High School in 2013.

Manny took the lessons from his time in 21CL into many new opportunities where he could grow in personal and community leadership. In 2016 Manny was selected to be an Orientation Leader at UGA for matriculating freshmen, and in 2017 he reconnected with 21CL to serve as a volunteer leader to current 21CL students at the Goizueta Youth Leadership Summit!

Thank you, Manny, for inspiring us to seek a connection in any conversation and for sharing your leadership with 21CL!