This 3 day leadership conference is one that I will remember. I have been blessed with the opportunity to become a part of something bigger than myself but a family of leaders and scholars who can help my in so many ways. Not only is the Gates Millennium Scholars Program paying for my education in totality, but also giving me a purpose and motive to become a leader in my community and leave a legacy.
The conference began on Friday, through a networking activity in which we were greeted and welcomed by several alums and mentors. I was able to talk with my fellow scholars of the class of 2013. There were about 500 of us from the East Coast. Then we had dinner and Tatyana Ali (Actress, Singer, Producer and Advocate), who was our keynote speaker for that night, spoke to us on purpose. She told us how our purpose can be found through the following steps : 1) your purpose in life will be something that you love and have a passion for 2) your purpose is natural talent that you possess which is not necessarily your personality 3) your purpose will be one that will allow you to contribute and help you community and others that you encounter. It was through this session that I reflected on what I thought my purpose was and I still am not sure what it is but now I know what I need to look for when I think I have found it. Purpose is what will make you want to get up in the morning. Following dinner, we were in for an afternoon of a community building activity: “Survivor” which allowed us to work with several other scholars as a team to get through a series of an obstacle course. Being that we were all meeting each other for the first time, we were shy but after a few minutes and presented with our first mission to come up with a team name and flag, we began brainstorming and getting to know each other. I was part of the “Concrete Jungle”. As we went through the obstacle course we began to improve out teamwork and creating friendships. It was really fun coming up with a team chant: “We are 17, ………, Our game is mean, Now hear us scream”. Although we did not win, we did enjoy working together.
Saturday was a very inspiring and informing day. Following breakfast, Mrs. Lois M. Moore, a very successful alumna spoke to us about our call to leadership. As Gates Scholars our duty is to lead rather it is in our school, community or family, but leadership is our ultimate goal. We were chosen out of 54,000 students do further our education because we were seen to have great potential to become leaders of the future for society. In the session that followed, we were given more information about how the scholarship program is more than just getting a free college education but the opportunities that came with it. We were told about the Ambassador program in which as Gates Scholars we could share information about the GMS scholarship program with potential scholars or to those that have not heard about it yet. Now am motivated to go back to Roosevelt High School and conduct a presentation or a workshop in informing potential scholars about the application process and helping them write their essays. After lunch, we were separated by gender for the next session. For the female scholars forum we were given the opportunity to have Tai Beauchamp who is a TV personality, Style Authority and Entrepreneur. She empowered us young woman with 5 beautiful reminders: 1) Be present and purposeful 2) Be bold and adventurous 3) Be inquisitive and studious 4) Speak YOUR truth/ share your story 5) Reach inward (get to know yourself, time to yourself), forward (cultivate relationships), sideways (support your fellow sisters) and backwards (mentoring those that will come after you). Powerful and words or wisdom to live by. After these gender specific forums, we took our group photo which was followed by a meeting with our administrative organization. Being that I am Hispanic, I met with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. We watched the documentary “Palante Siempre Palante” (http://palante.org/Documentary.htm , in which was I was able to learn about the Young Lords which was an advocate group that consisted of Puerto Rican and Latino students in the Bronx during the 1960-1970’s. I had never heard of this group that are part of history. After watching this documentary, questions were posed upon us to stir conversation about what effects Hispanics now a day such as if we live a post-race society?,What we were surprised to see in the film? Through table discussions and then a group chat, we were given the opportunity to give our opinion in which subjects such as immigration, the Dream Act and how our culture may put us at a disadvantage. But at the end, many of the Hispanic Gates Scholars were very passionate about being Hispanic and representing and advocating for our people. Next, we were broken down into smaller groups in which we had 3 presentations about the social transition to college, balancing home and social responsibilities and excelling academically. Through these presentation I now feel more prepared and comfortable with this new stage that I am entering into. This was followed by dinner and a presentation by Raul Magdaleno (in photo) who ended up having everyone inspired and speechless. Through sharing his story and comparing himself as well as us as minorities as “unnamed cans” we came to learn about how no matter what we go through life, how many times we are put down or doubted we have to rise above and prove everyone wrong. Our dreams are not impossible and just because I am a minority does not give me less of a chance at success. Finally to finish off the night i decided to go the screening of William Caballero’s (Gates Alumnus-Class 2001) Documentary: American Dream Deffered ( http://video.wgbh.org/video/2320137666/) which was also very inspiring, moving and relatable. Everyone should watch this documentary which shares the life of a young man who broke to cycle in his family through a lot of challenges in his family. I felt very touched by this film because I was able to relate to it a lot coming from a hispanic family and being the first to go to college and having a family member who has struggled through an illness which was breast cancer. Just like William Caballero my goal is to give those who do not have a voice, a real voice although he does this through film I hope to accomplish this goal through my writing. Great way to finish of my night.
On the last day of the conference I did not want it to end. I was learning so much and meeting great individuals, I just did not want it to end. We ended the conference with several speakers. The first to speak to us was Paul Moya (Gates Alumnus – Class of 2006), who spoke to us about our call to action in which he shared his story about a young boy he helped in an orphanage that changed his life forever which has encouraged me to travel to other countries and help those in need. Next we were informed about the ongoing GMS programming and how to continue to stay involved. Then Tommy Preston (Alumnus Class of 2003) shared his story of making a difference in South Carolina through helping solve the problem of illiteracy there which motivated us to tackle a problem in our community. William Caballero led the Pinning Ceremony and GMS Oath which Larry Griffin (Senior Vice President of UNCF) then gave the Closing remarks.
Coming back to my campus, I want to begin a mentoring club of some sort that will allow college students to help the neighboring communities directly. Although there are many clubs on campus, I feel that this specific club is needed which will allow young men and women to mentor those that will follow after us. It is always about paying it forward and helping those around us.