I remember a June morning that ushered in feelings of excitement as I prepared to launch my tourist summer.
I’d planned this summer months before, using resources like Peerlift to find and apply to intriguing and selective educational programs. Before my adventures began for the six programs that awaited me, I designated “Share Your Address” by Ben Platt as my liftoff song.
My summer could be divided into four categories: business, government, writing and leadership.
Building a business
After putting my previous venture, t²: transforming transportation, on the shelf, I was prepared to view entrepreneurship in a different light. My first program, in mid-June, was the Kelley Young Business Women’s Institute, which took place at Indiana University over four days. This program excited me since it was going in-depth about various business fields like marketing, finance, accounting and international business.
Taught by Indiana University staff, 39 other girls and I learned about these fields and were assigned in teams for a case competition to apply what we were learning. Different from my usual pitch competition, a case competition assigned a scenario to teams with the objective of designing a business that both followed the guidelines and used the information learned throughout the week. My team’s business, Bloom Bakery, used environmental conservation as the theme to differentiate ourselves from the other seven teams.
A couple of weeks later, I traveled to Boston to my older sister Miracle Olatunji’s school, Northeastern University, for a two-week, pre-college experiential entrepreneurship program in the third week of July.
Taught by Melanie St. James and Kishan Rana, I relearned how to start a business, along with learning about the various facets of the business world. With guest speakers from technology to coworking spaces, the program showed how to think like an entrepreneur and build a business from scratch.
There were six teams, each with four team members, and mine was called JADE, for each of our names: Jill Payackapan from Thailand, Adam Khan from Massachusetts, Dorcas Olatunji (me!) from Delaware, and Edison Chen from Connecticut. Our team idea started with the problem of food waste on college campuses and we later devised a solution called MouthFull.
It was an application that used augmented reality technology and an appetite algorithm to accurately measure portion sizes. The main problem, as we found from campus street interviews, was people not knowing what they want to eat and how much they would eat, which our application aimed to solve.
These two programs reinvigorated my passion for experiential entrepreneurship and working with teams to find a solution to a community problem.
Going with government
I was selected as one of four Charter School of Wilmington women for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State Program. Prepared for a week of bill debates and field trips, the program housed 60 girls in Wesley College’s dorms. The first day we arrived and moved in, we were assigned into two parties: the Federalists and Nationalists. In each party, we held elections for six positions, one of which I won — attorney general for the primaries and campaigning the following day.
Before the conference, we were tasked to write a bill for the week’s discussion. My bill was on student representation on school boards, something I’ve begun to advocate for since my appointment to the Board of Education earlier in the summer. During the week, we passed 12 bills both the House and the Senate in Delaware’s actual chambers.
Familiar with the area from my judicial involvement in Youth in Government, I was glad to understand legislative procedures. I left the program with my first Board of Education meeting under my belt, new friends from all around the state, and great memories to tell the next year’s selection of girls.
Working on my writing
Along with writing articles for Technical.ly this summer, I journeyed to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio to grow in a writing community at the Kenyon Review’s Young Writers’ Institute. For two weeks, myself and 14 others in my class wrote for hours and shared feedback on our writings. There were nine other classes and a science writing program going on at the same time, which provided further discussion even outside the classroom.
From bonfires to book signings, the community of Gambier inspired me and the 104 other writers to fearlessly create pieces worth sharing. My instructor and published author, Michael McGriff, passed on his knowledge to our class in Ascension 201 as we used one of the nation’s esteemed literary magazines as inspiration.
In the second week of the program after the first week of guest writers, the students shared their piece at the five nights of readings.
I shared a piece titled, “My Similar Sister” that I wrote on the second day, highlighting the experiences I share with my twin sister Deborah Olatunji as well as the ones — like this one — that I did not. This program was the longest we were away from each other, and it was right after Girl’s State ended. Writing the piece made it feel like part of her was there with me, and I was glad to share it with a great community of writers.
Learning from leaders
I traveled to Oklahoma to learn the principles of a Four-Star General Tommy Franks, at the Four Star Leadership program. Seventy student leaders from around the nation were selected to attend the week’s scholarship and speech competition. During the week, we learned the four core principles of leadership: character, communication, common vision and caring.
Taught by Oklahoma leaders and Four Star alumnus, we shared fond memories and learned how to work in teams. Before the program, we were provided six scenarios to base our speeches on and to debate on in an ethics bowl competition. Although I did not win any scholarships, I gained incredible connections and a leadership model to use for my own leadership initiative back home, the Student Leadership Initiative Program.
Finally, with the YMCA of Delaware’s Global Teen Program, I went abroad for the first time to London, for the YMCA175 Celebration Summit, the birthplace of the YMCA. Over 160 countries gathered in London to hear from youth and the YMCA’s global leaders and partners to advance the initiatives of national YMCAs. I felt empowered as I attended TED-ED sessions on how to prepare a talk, environmental panels on responding to the United Nations’ 12-year prediction, and physical activities like volleyball and basketball.
The YMCA of Delaware went with the mission of spreading the word on diversity, inclusion and awareness as our main themes. One of my favorite moments was the volleyball tournament where I played with friends from Spain, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland, all in the same room. The entire conference, though only four days, gave me a global perspective and experience I will never forget. After London, we went to Paris for two days to sightsee and enjoy our time with fellow delegates.
This summer was by far, one of the best in my life. I met so many people with different ideas and personal perspectives and was able to connect with them on common ground. I am incredibly excited to continue the connections within these communities and bring my ideas back here to Delaware to better my own community and the world. My summer of 2019 experiences also inspire me to help my peers find programs to travel and grow from because there’s a whole wide world outside of our beautiful Delaware.
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