By Madison Villarrial
Upon entering this semester, things were looking rather grim due to the current state of our country as we continue to battle a harsh pandemic and civil unrest across the country. The only thing that really had me excited upon entering the semester was LEAP Leads and the opportunities that my peers and I were about to receive. Finally, September 2nd came, and we got to begin a program we hope will be amazing.
As soon as the night began, the energy was already invigorating. Being around students who have similar goals and work ethics was extremely refreshing and humbling. Everyone was easy to talk to and we all got along from the get go.
We started off with a short introduction from Professor Yawn, which was basically a rundown of what to expect from the program and what he hopes we get out of it. The program is designed to introduce us to the community (University and local government communities), the structure of large organization, and the styles of leadership and structures used to navigate these structures.
We also were introduced to each other and talked about our career goals. Most of us want to be lawyers, however there was a fun mix of law enforcement and Chief of Staff type goals also.
Then, Ms. Fors led us into some icebreakers, so we could get to know the people we would be spending a lot of time with over the course of this semester.
These were quite interesting as we got to learn about everyone’s personality and interests, as well as a few silly tidbits. For example, we learned that Jayelynn really wants a new car and that Iriyana has a weakness for strange cuisines.
Our food from Carbonero then arrived and we got to chow down. I personally had never had this type of food and was nothing short of delighted at how delicious my Tacos al Carbon were.
During dinner, we tuned into the opening night of the Texas Tribune Festival, introduced by Evan Smith….
…and featuring Susan Rice, the keynote speaker.
Susan Rice is a Democratic policy advisor as well as a former ambassador for the United Nations under the Obama administration. Notably, she was also on the short list for Vice President under Joe Biden and will possibly be Secretary of State or Attorney General if Biden wins the upcoming election. The session was characterized by her disdain at the current state of the country, and how she believes the root of the problem is a president that encourages violence and hatred in order to further his political agenda. She also spoke about how she herself would take on the issues of our country by increasing testing/ contact tracing in terms of COVID-19 as well as increasing “national service” in order to overall reunite the country and move on from the hardships 2020 has brought.
Interestingly, the LEAP Ambassadors had met her in person…
…but with the exception of Quinn…
…this evening’s virtual introduction was our first time to meet her. Overall, her session was exciting and inspiring to me, as I dream to one day be like her.
The first night of LEAP Leads left me, and I hope my peers, feeling extremely hopeful and excited for the rest of the semester. The other things we have coming up have so much promise to be amazing, and in the wake of the pandemic, I couldn’t ask for much more.