By David Castillo, Communications Department, NCLR
Sometimes we don’t know what to do with our future until an opportunity comes along that opens our eyes and reveals our talent and passion. That’s how Emily Gonzalez got involved in service work. During her time as an NCLR Líderes Summit staffer last year in Los Angeles, Emily was able to hone her skills as a leader. The New York City native now plans to make service part of her future career.
The first in her family to go to college, Emily graduated from Brown University in 2013. She studied education with an emphasis on human development. While she enjoyed her field, upon completing the program Emily realized that teaching wasn’t what she wanted to do after all.
“I kind of fell into service. It was always something I did in high school and middle school. Then it continued in college,” said Gonzalez. “I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to be a part of a national organization [NCLR] and work with students advising them.”
As a summer intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in 2011, Emily attended the NCLR Annual Conference. There she discovered the Líderes Summit, and she loved the experience. The summer after graduating from Brown, still not quite sure what she wanted to do, Emily applied to be a member of the Líderes Summit staff.
Emily served on the events committee, where she sought to use the planning skills learned there in her work as a college advisor in AmeriCorps VISTA. It was a fine selection, but starting out proved challenging. Production schedules, speaker intros, and some of the event planning are done on-site by the Summit staff just one week before the Summit begins. More than half of the team during Emily’s term were new, so there was a learning curve.
“The theme last year [Think. Create. Aspire.] really resonated with my experience because we were thrown in right off the bat the first day we had training,” said Gonzalez. “At first I felt bit out of my comfort zone, but that was great because everyone was so supportive as a community.”
Despite the long hours and late nights, Emily says it was a truly worthwhile experience that continues to affect her work as an advisor at College Visions in Providence, Rhode Island. She also made some strong friendships in the process.
“Seeing how quickly we built relationships with each other helped me see how much good change could happen very quickly. I definitely try to pull that into the work I do,” said Gonzalez. “Whatever it is I’m doing with my students, I try to stay positive and see where I can build that relationship early and quickly so we can work together better.”
As for advice for incoming staff, Emily says folks should really reflect on what they’re going to bring to this experience.
“Make it your own. Even though there is somewhat of a routine to it, there’s always stuff you can do to make it new,” said Gonzalez. “If there’s someone you want to get to know, make sure you’re prepared to make that happen.”
We wish Emily the best of luck in the future, and we look forward to working with the new staff in making this year’s Líderes Summit an even greater success!