2019-2020 SPA Leadership Racial Injustice Issue Group: Fighting Recidivism
During the academic year of 2019-2020, I was honored to work alongside four other SPA Leadership Program students conducting extensive research on a focused subject within the larger issue of racial injustice: recidivism. Additionally, as a team, we organized a social media campaign and fundraiser to raise funds for a partnering D.C. non-profit organization, Free Minds Book Club, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the United States and around the world. This experience taught me additional leadership skills such as adaptability, timely communication, and conflict management while placing an emphasis on my previously-acquired leadership skills of reliability, active listening, and organization. Additionally, this collaborative initiative prepared me for my current individual social action project which focuses on my extensive research of the educational marginalization of underprivileged students in the United States and my current partnership with a D.C.-based educational non-profit, Higher Achievement.
My Summer 2020 Internship at The American Red Cross Headquarters, Washington DC
During the Summer of 2020, I virtually interned at the American Red Cross Headquarters, Washington D.C. in both the Office of the President and CEO and the Corporate Fundraising Office. Along with the various responsibilities I held during my time at Headquarters, I played a major role in developing and helping to execute the transition period for both distinct departments during the international COVID-19 pandemic. During such an unprecedented time in this honorable capacity, I experienced a sharp learning curve in the priceless leadership skill of adaptability. I become part of the Red Cross community during a moment when an unexpected transition was absolutely necessary and thus, my role was constantly changing. Because of my time at the American Red Cross Headquarters, I am able to face adversity logically, tackle any task without worry, and employ problem-solving tactics. Additionally, with the honor to work directly for the President/CEO of one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, Gail J. McGovern, I constantly observed a poised, personable leader who balanced humility and compassion with assertiveness and authority.
2020-2021 SPA Leadership Program: Closing the Educational Achievement Gap Action Project
In my second year within the American University School of Public Affairs Leadership Program, I conducted extensive research on the disparities within the United States’ educational system, especially with the widespread transition to online learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, during the fall semester, I tackled the research question: “Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the achievement gap and retention rates for low-income, Hispanic and Black students?”
With this question in mind, I discovered that although the US education system is intended to provide equal learning opportunities for all students, the academic achievement gap, which refers to the discrepancies in academic performance and thus, the success of particular sectors of students, has remained at a persistent, unchanged rate for the last 65 years. Furthermore, the widespread transition to online learning due to our current pandemic has further perpetuated and exposed the unfortunately long-term education system’s deeply-rooted institutional disparities.
Based on my fall research, I decided to partner with a well-known DMV non-profit, Higher Achievement and launched a social media initiative to inform the general public about the national education crisis, engage the public in fundraising for Higher Achievement and coordinate a remote charity run. By the end of my social media initiative, I acquired 112 followers and raised 200 dollars.
With both the many successes and few shortcomings due to the current pandemic, I have three major takeaways from this social action project. First off, as I reflect on this project, I have recognized how important developing a written plan was to the success of my action project. An effective written plan is one that gives the organizer enough time to complete their desired goals and is thus, adaptable. Secondly, an organizer must always assume that there are issues that one will least expect and thus, not initially account for. However, with a flexible, adaptable plan, the organizer will be able to effectively modify their objectives while still achieving success. Lastly, it is important that I remembered that engagement is a two-way street. Therefore, although it is important for the organizer to research, plan and develop, a portion of the project’s plan relies on an engaging audience.