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30th Annual National Student Leadership Congress

June 26, 2019

Iowa students with Rep. Abby Finkenauer.On June 8-13, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) hosted the 30th Annual National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC) at Georgetown University. This year, nearly 200 Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math/Science students from across the country, Puerto Rico, and Guam came to Washington, D.C., to learn, be inspired, and share their stories.

The first full day of the Leadership Congress began with welcoming remarks from Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski, Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Research, Internet Essentials, Comcast Corporation. Thorpe-Lubneuski is an alumna of the Upward Bound program at the University of Wyoming and participated in NSLC when she was in high school. She told the students that they should all be proud; that they are now part of a cohort that could define the rest of their life—because participating in NSLC changed her life.

Calvin Mackie and the Congress.The programming kicked off with a rousing address by Calvin Mackie, President and Founder of STEM NOLA. Dr. Mackie told the students that he doesn’t care who is telling them no — “You’ve got to say yes.” “In the future, there won’t be divisions of Black/White, rich/poor. There will only be people who are in the know and those who are not,” he said. “TRIO will be here in the future because we want you to be in the know.”

Texas students with Congressman Marc Veasey.Mackie closed with a list of three things that students need to succeed. The first, skillsets, goes beyond the skills you need to have to do your job so that you can pay your bills. The second is assets, people who are there for you. “Money is the lowest form of wealth,” Mackie said. “The highest form is making a difference.” The third thing needed is the right mindset. “Without this, the first two don’t matter,” he said. “Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from what you can do for yourself.”

Next, in a workshop on selective colleges, students learned that it’s more affordable to attend a selective college than a private 2-year college. “Selective schools have more money for grants and can offer better financial aid packages,” said Kevin Hudson, assistant director for college opportunity at Princeton University. “In addition to financial aid, look at the wrap around services offered,” Hudson said. “What programs does the school have that will help you succeed?”

Idaho students with Congressman Russ Fulcher.The afternoon featured breakout sessions on superhero kindness, dressing for success, internships, and financial literacy. The day ended with preparation for the next day’s visit to Capitol Hill and meeting with students’ Members of Congress.

Mock Congress winners.On the last day, students participated in a Mock Congress for which they researched, wrote, and then debated a bill of legislation on a given topic. Some of the topics included: should vaccinations be a federal mandate, should there be a national gun registry, should the United States pay reparations to the descendants of the African slave trade, and whether adolescents should be sentenced to life without parole. The winning team submitted a bill on whether the District of Columbia should be granted statehood — they took the position that it should not. As a reward for their winning bill, each member of the team received a laptop — generously donated by Internet Essentials by Comcast.

The 2019 National Student Leadership Congress closed with a banquet and dance while traveling down the Potomac River on the Spirit of Washington dinner cruise.