State Magazine September 2012 : Page 21

Above: The author joins students at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., for a group photo. Left: The author gathers with West Covina, Calif., High School seniors, who all applied to four-year universities. Photos by Peter Borrud When recently on home leave in California, I volunteered as a Hometown Diplomat and spoke to roughly 700 students at my alma maters, West Covina High School and Concordia University in Irvine. It was wonderful to hear students say “welcome back home.” I felt I was mentoring them as they try to identify a future profession. The majority had little or no knowledge of the mission of the Department, so I defined and explained diplomacy and familiarized them with the Civil Service and Foreign Service career paths. I also explained my work in the Office of Children’s Issues and told them of career and student opportunities at the Department. Several students said they found the Foreign Service fascinating, especially the benefits of living rent-free overseas. I par-ticularly enjoyed the Q&A sessions, which included a question about how to succeed as I have. I answered, “Reach for your goals, do not be afraid to ask for help and never let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.” A couple of days later, I traveled back to Washington, D.C., and found an email in my inbox from a Concordia University student who had attended my presentation and spoken with me afterward. “[When] mentioning my goal to work for the federal government to others, I have received a lot of negative criticism about the school I chose to attend and how it puts me at a disadvantage compared to Ivy Leagues or UC [University of California] campuses,” the email said. “Just knowing that you are alumni from Concordia and the profession you have just proves to me that they are wrong. I really thank you for that.” That made me realize how important it is for Department employees to go back home and share their wealth of knowledge and experience. I feel fortunate to have been a Hometown Diplomat because I was able to model the values the Department represents and possibly help develop the next generation of Department employees—and in my home community. STATE.GOV/STATEMAG // STATE MAGAZINE 21

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