If I could use one word to describe this summer experience, it would certainly have to be life- changing. Well that was actually two, but honestly, describing my time in Washington DC this summer as a Karel Fellow in as few words as possible wouldn’t give me enough room to explain how eye opening it was for me. Working this summer in the field of communications taught me just how powerful personal stories can be when trying to advocate and advance a specific message. It also taught me just how important it is for like-minded people to get together and work towards advocating that specific message.

And for me, that couldn’t be more true.

A family lost. A home destroyed. And a woman named Valentina. I spoke to Valentina at the League of United Latin American Citizens national convention in Washington, D.C. on behalf of World Wildlife Fund’s new program, Climatico and I remember how she began to describe to me how she lost everything after the glaciers began to melt and the runoff forced her to emigrate from Bolivia to the United States. What struck me most about my encounter with her was how she remained strong and was able to pick up the pieces after this event, determined to remain strong. Just as Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at moments of challenge and controversy.” It was through her trials and adversity I saw how much strength and how inspirational she was to me.

blmAs I began to reflect more about what this summer meant to me, living in Washington DC, during one of the most challenging times as an African American male, it was a unique experience, to see all of the support for the Black Lives Matter movement which came from people of all different races. For me personally, as I protested in the streets of DC, I truly felt like I could make a change, supporting and standing in the gap for all the lives that were lost. Surrounded by some of my Karel Fellows, standing up for what we believed in, we protested so that we could help bring much needed change to the community at large.

And so, this summer I learned a lot as a Karel fellow and look to continue this work in the future.