06/13/2012 04:15 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2012

My Experience at UNCF's Inaugural Convention

The Gateway to Leadership Student Leadership Conference was a humbling, informative, productive, and empowering experience. From the moment we arrived at George Washington University's Mount Vernon Campus, we were immersed into the GTL culture and introduced to our fellow GTL Fellows.

The first line of business was familiarizing us with each other. As we all presented our names, schools, majors, and other basic information, it became clear that Ms. Annette Singletary of UNCF and the rest of the UNCF/GTL team had worked tirelessly to select the best applicants that the participating schools had to offer. Next, we watched the original Wall Street movie starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. Though the film obviously gave the Wall Street environment a Hollywood treatment, it gave us an idea of the high-paced and highly-active world that we will soon be a part of.

Following the film screening, we relocated to the campus's beautiful Post Hall for the Welcome
Reception. We socialized amongst ourselves, networked with sponsors and members of partnering
firms of the GTL program, and enjoyed delectable hors d'oeuvres to the backdrop of live contemporary jazz. After a warm greeting from UNCF Chief Operating Officer Early Reese, we retired for the evening--we knew we had a long day ahead of us.

On Thursday May 31, we were awake at 6:30 am and ready to participate in a full day of interactive
seminars at the downtown Washington, DC offices of consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Once
we finished with breakfast, we found seats in Booz Allen's high-tech conference room. The first
speaker we heard from was Gerald Chen-Young, UNCF's Chief Investment Officer. Mr. Chen-Young's accomplishments were all very impressive, but the most notable one from my perspective was his postgraduate degree from the London School of Economics; two weeks ago, I was attending lectures at that very institution. Mr. Chen-Young started his presentation by giving a brief overview of the history of regulations on the issuance and exchange of securities, starting with the events leading to the Securities Act of 1933 and ending with the events following the Dodd-Frank Act of 2008. Over the course of his presentation, Mr. Chen-Young set the tone for the day: the presentations would be in-depth and would place heavy emphasis on engaging us in active participation.

Over the course of the day, we heard from the NAACP Financial Freedom department, the Managing Director and Head of Human Resources of ING, Michael Pratt, the Vice President of AXA Advisors Ken Webb, and the Director of Investments of Jalia Ventures, Kesha Cash. The day was capped off with honest and candid discussions at the "Meet the Executives" panel discussion, which featured the Vice President of Diversity for Sodexo, Inc. Lourdes Diaz, the Market President for Kforce, Inc., Don Harvey, and the Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton, Lloyd Howell, Jr. The panelists shared their career and life experiences, reflected on obstacles they have encountered, and encouraged all of the students in attendance to continue relentlessly towards success. The panel's stories of perseverance and excellence were both inspirational and motivational.

On Friday, June 1, we headed back to Booz Allen Hamilton's downtown offices for a second day of
informational sessions. The first workshop was instructed by Marc Tate and Monica Lewis, two senior associates at Booz Allen Hamilton. Mr. Tate and Ms. Lewis gave a thorough presentation on critical thinking and business writing. We then heard from another Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, Pamela Hardy, who spoke on the importance of leadership. Ms. Hardy was followed by Karl Reid, the UNCF Senior Vice President of Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives; Dr. Reid gave a thought-provoking presentation on why we should never reach a point where we feel comfortable enough to stop growing. The last presentation was by Erik Medina a consultant from CareerCore, the company providing personal coaches for each of the GTL interns. That presentation ended the day on an informative note, as it included an outline of the top ten mistakes that interns make.

When the time came for the GTL fellows to depart for our internships on the morning of Saturday, June 2, we did so with a sense of preparedness and confidence. Combined with the drive for achievement that we have exemplified throughout our academic careers thus far, the tools that this conference has provided us with will undoubtedly propel us toward success in our summer internships and beyond.