Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Jyoti Sharma

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
Name
: Dr. Jyoti Sharma
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1998
High School: Chamblee Charter High School
College: Emory University
Current Role: Medical Director, Women’s Heart Program at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital

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 grew up in Atlanta and prided myself on going to a high achieving diverse magnet high school.  As a young woman of color, I felt like my school and family had taught me a good deal about diversity and understanding others.  During my summer with 21CL, I remember how I was struck to spend time with students from rural and small communities that were nothing like mine. 21CL taught me that the concept of diversity encompasses more than just ethnicity and socioeconomic status and helped me to expand my idea of community and instilled in me the importance of seeking to understand others.  As a practicing physician, I know that I am doing the right thing for the patient when I first listen and then seek to truly understand their concerns.     

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 memorable moments at 21CL was leading my first group discussion and actually putting leadership into practice.  Being a leader is challenging and takes a lot of work.  Spending the week interacting with other young leaders gave me the confidence to stand up and practice my leadership skills, things like- communicating effectively, being an active listener, practicing problem-solving, and building up the courage to speak with authenticity.    

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

Before I went to 21CL, I had not interacted with students outside my neighborhood and immediate community.  It was a great opportunity to meet students with different families, different values, different academic priorities, and meet students who had different ways of imagining what success could look like for them in the future.  Learning how to communicate and build bridges with other students that were not like me was one of the most valuable skills that I learned at 21CL.  I spend most of my days now communicating with different people across a large healthcare system and aligning members of different groups behind important initiatives.  My time at 21CL was foundational for my understanding and practice of how I relate and communicate with others.  

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

My advice for a current and future student is to Believe in yourself!  So many of us struggle with self-doubt, with imposter syndrome and ask ourselves “Do I belong here?  Am I good enough?”   The answer is yes!  My summer with 21CL was critical in building my understanding of my leadership potential and abilities.  It was a place to explore the kind of leader I wanted to be and gave me access to connect with others so I could understand what different kinds of leadership styles looked like in real life.  I want to encourage students to stretch themselves, try something hard, stick with it, and believe in themselves. 

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Alumni Spotlight: Ben Bryant

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
Name
: Ben Bryant
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1999
High School: Chamblee Charter High School
College: Washington & Lee University (BA); The George Washington University (MA, Legislative Affairs); Mercer University (JD)
Current Role: Vice President & Sr. Division Counsel for Financial Services and Marketing, InComm Payments | State Board Member, Technical College System of Georgia

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?

Professionally, I serve as Vice President & Senior Division Counsel for Financial Services and Marketing at InComm Payments, a global fintech and payments company headquartered here in Atlanta. Prior to joining the legal field, I spent three years working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I also serve on the State Board for the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), a role I’ve had the privilege of serving in since 2013. 

As memory serves, I participated in three summers of the 21CL program back in the mid-to-late 1990s, which at the time was a single week of summer camp offered at Atlanta Christian College. One of the biggest takeaways for me from 21CL was coming to truly understand the importance of networking and the ability to find common ground in the moment with a wide array of individuals. The ability to communicate and make connections with the individuals we encounter daily is such a valuable skill whether it be interviewing for college or for a job, or in the workplace itself. Programs like 21CL serve as excellent incubators for developing these skills in a no-pressure environment.

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 favorite memories from my time participating in 21CL was the exercise where students formed teams to run our own small businesses in competition against one another in selling snacks and drinks to program participants. It was an incredibly fun and educational exercise allowing students to develop and hone a variety of skills including business strategy, marketing, and salesmanship. I also have memories of visits to Atlanta-area businesses, etiquette dinners, volunteering, and a talent show or two. Thankfully my time in 21CL predates smartphones, so hopefully no video footage exists from the talent shows – I definitely participated in one of the step shows Kyle Wingfield mentioned in his alumni spotlight and I imagine I don’t look quite as talented as I thought I did at the time (and certainly less talented than my 21CL colleague Carl, who was the drum major at Cedar Grove High School at the time…).

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

My leadership style is one of collaboration, consensus, and camaraderie. I strongly believe that we’re better when we work together, fostering an environment of inclusivity where everyone not only feels like a part of the team, but is proud of the team and happy to be a part of it. Each of us brings different skills and perspectives to the table based on our backgrounds and experiences, and when we work together to craft solutions to the problems we face, we create better outcomes for all involved. Participating in 21st Century Leaders absolutely advanced my belief in the power of collaboration. This is something I get to put into practice as co-chair of InComm’s DE&I Council, as well as through my involvement in activities outside of my professional career, such as Scouting, TCSG, and various other community organizations.

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

Programs like 21CL are important for several reasons. First, they provide an outlet for students who are likely already leaders in their respective schools and communities to grow their leadership skills alongside like-minded peers. Second, they afford students the opportunity to enhance their communication skills, which are critically important to future success in college and beyond. Other than Scouting, I can’t think of another program that helps students develop skills in effectively communicating with adults, a skill which is lacking in many youths that don’t regularly have the opportunity to engage with adults outside of the rigid student-teacher context. Third, these programs help students improve their networking skills, not only among high school peers, but among adults in a business setting. While the old mantra “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” is not entirely accurate, there is certainly some truth to the saying, and you’ll find at every step of your career it helps to know people. The good news for today’s participants, is that you have much more of an ability to stay connected to your fellow participants than we did in the dark ages before social media existed! 

Finally, and most important from my perspective (and this echoes what fellow alumni Brandi H. and Kyle W, both of whom I attended 21CL camps with, shared in their spotlights) the program brings together a diverse group of individuals from all across the state, giving participants the opportunity to appreciate, respect, and ultimately learn from the perspective of others. As far as advice, I would encourage current and future students to step outside of their comfort zones and place themselves in situations that afford the opportunity to learn and grow alongside a diverse mix of individuals at every step of their educational and professional careers.

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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
Name
: 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!

Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Wingfield

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
Name
: Kyle Wingfield
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1997
High School: Dalton High School
College: University of Georgia
Current Role: President and CEO, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

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?

After my time in 21st Century Leaders (21CL) (high school class of 1997), I graduated from the University of Georgia and pursued a career in journalism that took me to the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, including 4.5 years overseas in Belgium. In 2018, I changed careers and became CEO of an Atlanta-based think tank called the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Looking back, I can see clear ways that my participation in 21CL helped me. For example, I became more comfortable speaking not only in front of groups, but also one-on-one with adult business executives. I also learned a lot about different personality types and how people within those various types see the world differently. And just generally, I would say 21CL was a key part in helping a small-town boy like me see a much larger world and understand more possibilities.

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.)

While I had a racially diverse group of friends growing up, my hometown overall was not a hugely diverse place during my childhood – although that has changed significantly over time. 21CL was an experience that helped me learn what it’s like to be among people of diverse backgrounds: not only in the small group that I might choose, but in a broader sense as well. I remember things like a member of the staff team one year teaching us in the evenings about step shows. Of course, we found that we had more things in common than not, but being exposed to some of the differences gave me a comfort level as well as an awareness that helped me be a better citizen of my surroundings as my surroundings changed.

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

I try to lead by example and by consensus: I model the behavior I expect from my team, and I seek their buy-in for important decisions or changes. The exercises, discussions and experiences in 21CL contributed to those elements of my leadership style.

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

Whether one grows up in a small town or an urban area, young people tend to take a more constrictive view of the world than they may realize. They are largely limited by their observations and experiences. That applies to their horizons, which dictate how they view opportunities and possibilities. But it also applies to their self-conception: They may believe they are only what they have been, which is shaped by the people and influences they’ve known. Today’s technologies may broaden their opportunities to know more people and influences than those nearby – for better and for worse – but young people still need ways to try out new versions of themselves in constructive, nurturing environments. I firmly believe programs like 21CL allow them to do just that, because these programs let them break out of the molds that have built up around them. These programs are opportunities for what we might call positive rebelliousness: going against what they’ve always known and been, but in ways that build them up rather than put them at risk.

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Alumni Spotlight: Brandi Harrison

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
Name
: Brandi Harrison
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1997
High School: H.V Jenkins High School
College: Brenau University
Current Role: Owner, Launch Pointe Productions

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?

Brandi Harrison

I first participated in 21CL almost 30 years ago, and that experience continues to impact my career! Being exposed to business at an early age has meant I’ve always been comfortable stepping into board rooms, giving presentations to senior management, and building teams to succeed at a task. In my first position as an Associate Producer, I understood how to communicate well with my co-workers and manager because of the team challenges we were given in 21CL. Later, when I became a Director of Operations with direct reports, I knew how to set a clear vision for my team because of the leadership skills I had learned. And now, as an entrepreneur with 3 successful businesses with my husband, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to take on this challenge without having experienced success doing uncomfortable challenges with 21CL. The programs at 21st Century Leaders do an amazing job of honing in on the skills of the individual, while making you focus on the success of the group. It’s only now, looking back at my career, that I can connect the dots!

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.)

I spent two amazing summers during high school at the Summer Business Academy. For a week each year, I was immersed in a challenging environment with a diverse group of incredibly smart students and a high expectation of excellence set by the instructors. From trust falls to group projects, the time I spent with these other young adults was truly rewarding. During the second summer, as I was a rising senior, we were broken into groups and given a real business challenge at the start of the week. By the end of the week, we would need to present our solution to the professionals. Every minute that we weren’t sleeping, we were working on our presentation, tweaking after we learned new concepts in sessions throughout the week. Nerves were high when we arrived at the corporate location that morning. While I can’t tell you a single thing about the business challenge, I vividly remember stepping into the board room knowing that I belonged there and had something important to say. I’ve carried that memory with me, anchoring to it when needed in both big and small moments of my career. 

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

21CL was the first place that I learned about leadership styles! Understanding how I naturally lead and communicate was empowering. And then being able to adjust to styles needed by my team felt like magic! My whole career has been focused around building the right team for the project and effectively leading that team can be pivotal to its success. 

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

21CL bridges the gap in education for students to really learn about themselves and how their uniqueness can translate to success in college, their careers, and being a positive impact to their community. Even as a high performing magnet school student, there was no other place that I received this level of exposure to possibilities and focused internal growth. In order to meet the needs of future challenges, we need to teach the next generation the skills that they will need. And 21CL is essential to that process.

My advice for students attending the program is to push and challenge yourself to take on the leadership role that feels uncomfortable. Talk to the students you don’t think you have anything in common with. What feels awkward now could be a key to your success!

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Legacy Partner Spotlight: Warner Bros. Discovery

21st Century Leaders Celebrates 35-Year Partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery

(Atlanta, GA) For 35 years, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), formerly Turner, has been supporting and partnering with 21st Century Leaders (21CL) to inspire youth to lead. In three decades, this legacy partnership has served over 17,000 of Georgia’s high school students with career and leadership training, including volunteer opportunities, paid internships, a student-led social enterprise business developed by students and Cartoon Network managers, and even employment for industry-inspired 21CL alumni!

21st Century Leaders began in 1989 as the Georgia Business Forum, changing names in 1996 to 21st Century Leaders (21CL). The organization launched its first “summer business academy” in 1991, focusing on business education and diversity training for Georgia’s high school students to prepare for leadership roles in the workforce and in their communities. Since its beginning, 21CL has partnered with companies to provide equitable opportunities for youth to access professionals, career knowledge, resources for service and leadership, and confidence for their future pathways.

It was the early 1990’s when a community affairs executive at Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), Terri Tingle, solidified the collaborative relationship between 21CL and the Atlanta-based media company, establishing a legacy of support that continues today through sponsorship, program development, employee engagement and Board membership.

Then, it was Dennis Quinn, Executive Vice President at Turner at the time, and 21CL’s Board Chair in the early 2000’s, whose forward-thinking passion for leadership drove the creation of 21CL’s first co-branded summer leadership institute in 2006 called Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience. That became a pivotal turning point for the organization. Bob Watson, Founding Executive Director of 21st Century Leaders says, “He is a really great example of what committed leadership could do.”

Warner Bros. Discovery had been sponsoring corporate exploration days and year round programming including, for several years, the Cartoon Network Closet, a unique work experience for high school students. This student-run social enterprise gave high school students a paid or credited work experience running a storefront on eBay selling branded items donated by the network to support 21st Century Leaders, as well as the opportunity to work with network managers and executives on collaborative special projects. Dennis Adamovich, who currently serves on 21CL’s Advisory Council, led this Initiative when he was SVP of Marketing for Cartoon Network during the early 2000s, proving once again that committed leadership drives impact. Building on years of support and collaboration, WBD’s sponsorship of a week-long program introduced a new level of impact and sustainability to the partnership.

Images of Turner Voices events photographed on Monday, June 19, 2017 in Atlanta, GA. Photo by John Nowak/TBS

For 18 summers from 2006 to 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery’s support of this media-focused summer program allowed nearly 1,800 high school students to participate at no cost in a curated, premier residential program and gain invaluable insights and access into the media and entertainment industry that continues to expand in Georgia. The name of the institute changed over the years as the company evolved, but their commitment to investing in future talent and youth leadership stayed consistent and even grew with the inclusion of a paid summer institute exclusively available to high school senior students from WBD’s organizational partners (like 21CL). 

“Warner Bros. Discovery is proud of our longstanding partnership with 21st Century Leaders, and we celebrate their achievements over these last 35 years. Throughout our partnership, we have been fortunate to work with the incredible 21CL team to co-create engaging in-depth student programs focused on building career pathways in the media and entertainment industry. I am proud to have witnessed first-hand the impact of the work, seeing so many 21CL students pursuing careers in the media industry and even joining our company as interns and full-time employees. We look forward to elevating our reach this year and remaining a source of mentorship and inspiration for the future leaders of our industry,” says Sydney Langdon, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at WBD.

“Warner Bros. Discovery’s commitment has never waivered for three decades. Not many nonprofits can say that about their partners. To me, that only shows their committed and passionate leadership, shared values, and strong belief in the work 21st Century Leaders has done and continues to do for Georgia’s youth,” says Kate Hewitt, Executive Director for 21st Century Leaders. “Our collective investment in inspiring and developing diverse storytellers and leaders has left, and continues to leave, an indelible mark on Georgia’s communities and beyond.”

As we celebrate our 35th anniversary in 2024, Warner Bros. Discovery continues to support 21CL as a legacy partner. In addition to producing in-kind videos highlighting our Georgia Youth Leadership Award winners, they will be one of our partners for our new Film & Entertainment Institute launching in summer 2024, and they are the presenting sponsor of our annual fundraising event, the Be the Inspiration Gala, taking place on Saturday, March 23, 2024 at Zoo Atlanta.

Several of the featured Alumni Spotlights share the impact this company has had on them whether during a program or now as an employee.

Written by Nicole Meadows, Dir. of Programs & Communications, 21st Century Leaders (21CL Alumni)

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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
Name
: 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.

Alumni Spotlight: Julian Mason

Julian Mason is a graduate of Westminster High School (2018) and of Drexel University (2022). He participated in many of our student programs, was a 21CL Youth Ambassador and during his college years and after, he has continued to volunteer with 21CL helping read and score summer applications and volunteering at our most recent golf fundraiser. Julian is a founder of a consulting company, New Hope Visionairies Coaching & Consulting LLC.  Your challenges & stories are yours, and the more you do to not only learn from them, but also embrace them, I genuinely believe the better off you will be. Get to know yourself as deeply and intimately as possible. Explore your interests, see new scenes, and pour into yourself the best way you know how to and can.” ~Julian Mason’s advice to current and future high school students

Paint a brief picture about yourself and what you are doing now.

I graduated from Drexel University in June 2022 Magna Cum Laude with my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Marketing concentration and obtained my certificate for Social Responsibility in Business. Since graduating, I spent a little bit of time in grad school until I let experience be my best teacher and started my own business, New Hope Visionairies Coaching & Consulting LLC. Essentially, it has two primary functions: 1.) consult companies looking to build upon or create experiential learning opportunities for early career professionals, and 2.) coach early career professionals looking to take advantage of and benefit from experiential learning opportunities. I love working with individuals between the ages of 16-23 to help them become more aware of themselves and more intentional about how they would like to work and contribute to their communities, and I think a good chunk of that passion of mine started with 21CL. So, if you’re ever interested in working together from a coaching or consulting perspective, reach out!

When were you in high school and which 21CL programs did you participate in? 

I graduated from Westminster in 2018 and first participated in 21CL doing Earthcare at Berry College in 2015. The following year, I became a Youth Ambassador and engaged in programming throughout the year. Since graduating high school, I have participated in programs through alumni volunteer opportunities like fundraisers and reviewing new member applications.

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 got the chance to explore my interests through some amazing Co-op experiences in college. My first came with working at Sephora as a Talent Acquisition Coordinator where my biggest project was helping them build, launch, and manage their first virtual internship program due to the rise of COVID-19. The following year, I earned the opportunity to work with Sephora’s parent company LVMH Inc. Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton as a Talent Management & Corporate Social Responsibility Intern where I got to work with the 40+ North American brands that fall under LVMH Inc. such as Tiffany & Co., Dior, Rimowa, Bulgari, and more, to develop and enhance programming for their early career professionals. 21CL truly has had a positive impact on me and enhanced my passion for developing programs and systems that help teens and young adults explore the value of experiential learning opportunities. I grew up on the south side of town but went to school in Buckhead, so I like to operate from a spectrum of perspectives. It wasn’t until I found 21CL that I started to nurture this spectrum. 21CL has a way of providing an individual with the platform to believe in themselves and their capabilities as a leader like no other program does.

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 ‘aha’ moment during my time in 21CL was definitely the ropes course. I had never done anything like it, and I really wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I remember being so scared to the point of me almost not doing the course, but then my peer leader and fellow members supported me so much to the point where I did not care about failing after I tried because I realized that failing would be not trying in the first place. Long story short, I completed the ropes course, overcame a fear of failing in the moment, and became a more confident leader with an increased reverence for community support.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? if so, how? And if you’ve recently learned something else about leadership please share!

21CL helped me to develop a collaborative leadership style for sure. I feel as if my experiences with 21CL such as Earth Care and Youth Ambassadors always showed me that even though you may be the designated leader, you might not always know what is best, so you must be as good a follower as you are a leader, and doing so even makes you a better leader. I remember when I became the president of the Black Student Union during my senior year in college, I told everyone at the first general body meeting that they were also the president of the organization. This was the first year back on campus after COVID, and I knew that if I wanted to enhance the sustainability and longevity of the organization, then I needed others to have ownership of their ideas and that came with simply sharing some of my leadership as President. Lessons like that can only be learned from one’s own experiences, so I am extremely grateful for the experiences that I had with 21CL that force me to reflect and be externally introspective because they make me a well-rounded leader by welcoming the perspective of others.

What advice would you give to a current or future student?

The advice that I would give to current or future students is to trust in YOUR struggle, live for YOU, and give love to YOUR life. Your challenges & stories are yours, and the more you do to not only learn from them, but also embrace them, I genuinely believe the better off you will be. Get to know yourself as deeply and intimately as possible. Explore your interests, see new scenes, and pour into yourself the best way you know how to and can.

How would you describe 21CL in three words?

21CL described in three words: Fulfilling, Impactful, Motivating