03/01/2013 03:40 pm ET Updated May 01, 2013

Grad Nation 2013

I recently traveled to the nation's capitol, Washington D.C., for a conference, Grad Nation, which is hosted by Gen. Colin Powell and America's Promise Alliance Chair his wife, Alma Powell. There were hundreds of business leaders, educators, policy makers and youth leaders convening to create more dialogue on the issue of the dropout crisis in our nation.

I attended various sessions relating to the financial aid system, adult and youth partnerships and more. I networked with so many people and enjoyed conversations with people from various backgrounds. There was one moment that stood out to me the most. I was able to meet this young girl, Ebony, from Chicago. At the luncheon we had a great conversation about our love for Washington D.C. Despite our different hometowns and backgrounds, we both have a strong passion for leadership, empowering the youth and improving our communities.

During our conversation and sitting within a feet of her during one of the workshop sessions, I couldn't help but to admire her enthusiasm, intellect and passion. I know by reading this most would think I'm talking about a mature woman over the age of 30. However, I'm not. Ebony is wise beyond her years. She has accomplished a lot in such a short amount of time and I'm confident she will continue to do so.

Without knowing her full story, I can tell she has probably been through some good, bad and ugly times. However, she hasn't let that define who she is. Her ability to speak up and share her voice at the adult and youth partnership workshop was embraced by so many of the attendees. One lady sitting close said, "that girl is going to go far in this world, I can see it". I couldn't help but to nod in agreement.

People like Ebony come in everyone's life for a reason. For me, she serves as an inspiration to continue to fight for the youth in my community and worldwide. She is the reason why I choose to remain hopeful, rather than hopeless. Her passion touched me and I will forever be grateful for that short conversation that we had during the Grad Nation Summit luncheon. I encourage more of the youth to speak up and serve as an inspiration just as Ebony did for me. Our generation wants it and needs it.

I want to personally thank all the hard-working staff at America's Promise Alliance who worked countless hours to make this summit happen. I had a great time and this memory will go down in the history books for me. Lastly, thank you Ebony. You inspired me in so many ways and I hope you continue to serve as a role model for those in your community. The world needs more people like you. Thank you!