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Alumni Spotlight: Quiana Howard Gordon

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
: Quiana Howard Gordon
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1998
High School: Norcross High School
College: Georgia State University
Current Role: Senior Program Advisor, National Institute For Student Success 

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?

I took part in 21st Century Leaders, which provided me with the first opportunity to visit a college campus and experience living away from home. The program helped me gain confidence in my survival abilities as a young adult. I had the chance to engage with like-minded peers and participate in new opportunities that expanded my skillset. In 21CL, I could see how my classroom learning related to postsecondary studies and the world of work. The research, time-management, and study skills I developed during individual and group activities and projects proved helpful during my undergraduate studies and even throughout my master’s degree and doctoral program. These skills have also been valuable throughout my professional career.

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.)

One of my most unforgettable experiences at 21CL was when our cohort dressed up in business attire and got the opportunity to visit the Cartoon Network office. Cartoon Network was a big deal at that time because it had some of the best TV shows. We had a tour of the facilities during our visit, networked with some content writers, and participated in a Q&A luncheon with the executives. We had the chance to sit with important people and showcase the leadership skills we acquired during the 21CL learning sessions.

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

Absolutely! When I became aware of the different leadership styles, I would always say I was a servant leader because that was the buzzword. But over time, I realized my leadership style was more adaptable based on the situational context. When working with a team of subject matter experts, my role as a leader becomes more supportive. Conversely, when I work with a less experienced team, my leadership approach becomes more hands-on and lessens as the team develops and becomes more independent.  

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

Programs like 21CL can introduce students to leadership and postsecondary opportunities, making them more accessible. It’s often said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Therefore, having the chance to gain knowledge, learn new skills, or even make new contacts can enhance an individual’s value and make them more valuable to others. My advice to current and future students is to jump into 21CL with both feet because there’s so much to gain from the team and partnering organizations. Take it to heart, and you won’t regret it!