Gisabel Salcedo. Fernando Perez. Hafzat Akanni. Jessica Dough.
Destination: Washington, D.C.
The National Youth Leadership Forum on CSI and Law.
Hafzat, Fernando, Jessica and Gisabel left Providence on Monday morning, July 20, on a direct flight to Washington, D.C. to represent our Hope High Life Skills class, Hope High School, their families and their own brands at
a national, week long leadership conference in our nation’s capital.
Over 400 students from all over the United States were in attendance. “Even Alaska!, Mr Cronin” Jessica informed me. In fact, Jessica met a Japanese girl who lived on an American military base in Japan who was part of the conference. “It was such a diverse group of students, not only geographically but culturally, ethnically and ideologically. We had so many interesting conversations within our groups and with our roommates. I was amazed and pleased I found students who had similar interests and social perspectives as my own.”
“I was surprised how inclusive the conference was” Fernando commented.
“I wasn’t expecting everyone to be as friendly as they were. Regardless of where you were from, urban or rural, Tennessee or Colorado, Florida or California, whether you were affluent or less fortunate, it made no difference. Everyone came together.
We were all focused on making the most of the conference and having a good time.” Fernando observed.
Hafzat added “the students I met were serious about their educations but, at the same time, we had lots of fun! My roommates were from California and Washington state. I also met students from Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.“
And, from Gisabel, “you start off wondering how the other students at the conference from different places in America will treat you. I was amazed how quickly we all got comfortable with each other. Within 2 days of my arrival, everyone bonded. Whether you were from Los Angeles or New York, like my roommates, or Providence, it didn’t make a difference; we all became very comfortable with each other. I made several wonderful, new friends”.
According to Jessica, “all of us
had to be prepared to step out of our comfort zone. We were always meeting new people. It was great!“
Gisabel shared one example of extending herself out of her comfort zone. “During one of the activities, I was assigned with two other students to test finger prints found at a mock crime scene at a forensic lab. We then had to answer questions and provide explanations to a mock jury. I was nervous at first but, afterwards, I felt good about my performance. It was a great experience. I’m glad I did it.” And Hafzat added – “One day, one of the conference leaders asked the group if anyone was interested in introducing a famous law professor from George Washington University to entire the Forum prior to his lecture.
I thought about it and then said ‘what the heck. I’ll push myself out of my comfort zone and do it’. I was nervous when I made the introduction in front of everyone but afterwards, I felt pretty good about it.”
Jessica concurred. In a text to me (Mr Cronin) during the conference, Jessica wrote “we’ re so proud of Hafzat. She got up in front of the whole conference and introduced one of the speakers. She was amazing!”
From court room mock trials and visits to CSI forensic laboratories to tours of universities like George Mason and Georgetown and conversations with federal agents, lawyers and judges, each day was packed with activities. Students were given responsibilities for each activity. Being part of a forensic team examining handwriting samples or testing finger prints from a mock crime scene or being a prosecuting attorney, each student had a role to play.
Students were given time to visit many of the iconic locations in our nation’s capital: the Viet Nam Memorial, National History Museum, The Lincoln Monument, Martin Luther King exhibit and the National Mall. One of the
most impactful tours was the Holocaust Museum.
“The Holocaust Museum had a powerful aura; you could tell it was a special place” Fernando said. Jessica added “I had always heard and wondered about the Lincoln Memorial. I felt good about actually being there to see it.”
One of the many benefits of the conference was
the exposure to new careers and new places.
Afterward, Hafzat, Gisabel, Jessica and Fernando reflected on their experience. “You know, I wasn’t thinking about a career in forensics. But, after attending this conference, I’ve started to think about a career in this field. I also wasn’t thinking going to college in Washington or Maryland; now I am” added Fernando. Gisabel concurred. “One of the best things about this conference was learning about careers I previously knew nothing about. I’m really interested in learning more about a forensic career“. Hafzat added “I’m actually thinking about a law career“. And for Jessica, “I’m certainly interested in looking at schools in this area of the country. My roommate told me George Mason was her dream school. And Georgetown is beautiful; I just loved the campus architecture“.
Anything else, guys? “There were a lot of different accents, Mr Cronin. Some of the students from the southern states were interesting to listen to. I can only imagine what they thought about our Providence accent” Fernando said. Jessica added “my advisory leader was surprised when I gave her my business card. She was impressed I had them“. Hafzat had a similar reaction when she handed out her cards. “I met so many impressive people, Mr Cronin” Gisabel added. “Especially our program coordinator, Antoine. Just the way he coordinated all our activities over the course of the week and the respect we all had for him was impressive. I learned a lot from him.”
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Each student, Hafzat, Gisabel, Fernando and Jessica, expressed their appreciation repeatedly during my conversations with them for all the people who made this opportunity possible. From Marcia Basler who has been picking up Hope High ‘Life Skills’ students at the airport since Marta Aparicio’s visit in 2008 and especially Marta’s tour of Georgetown where she eventually received a full scholarship and four wonderful years to the many corporate and individual sponsors (Pipier, Lou, Mark, John, Tom and the Board, Paul and John, and Carlos) whose donations subsidize this trip, ‘thank you’ for this ‘life changing’ opportunity for these exceptional students from Hope High School. They made us proud! Their brand is strong and they’ve done much to enhance the Hope High School brand too. These four students are but a small representation of many other exceptional young people at Hope High School waiting to be given an opportunity to show their talents. Thank you so much for your ongoing support. I look forward to visiting all our sponsors over the next few months to ask for your support again for the coming year.