Summer 2014 Commencement

Summer 2014 Commencement

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Christian Holm
August 05, 2014

The Washington Center’s 2014 summer students saw a jam-packed semester draw to a close with a Commencement  filled with praise and passion on Aug. 9.


TWC alumnus Robert Balthaser ’91, vice president of development for the Trust for the National Mall, headlined the event, which capped an intense 10-week program for more than 450 students from around the world. Balthaser shared his memories of TWC and how participating in the program more than two decades ago helped push his career in a direction he never expected. Though he enrolled in TWC’s Law and Criminal Justice program, Balthaser realized that a legal career wasn’t for him. Instead, he followed his passions – which led him to become a fundraiser for audiences he deeply believes in. Balthaser called on alumni to find a cause that ignites their personal ambition and act on it. “My challenge to you is this: Identify what your passion is and identify it in others around you. Most importantly, pay attention and be present in your engagement with individuals who demonstrate absolute leadership and unfettered commitment to their career and their lives.”


Q&A with Robert Balthaser ‘91


Three representatives of the summer cohort offered personal reflections on their TWC experiences at commencement. Their themes focused on the enormous obstacles that TWC students overcame to complete the semester and how the experience has prepared them for the uncertainty they face as they exit into the professional world.


Owen Odigie (Institution: California State University, San Bernardino; Internship: Rebuilding Together) suggested the adversity that the interns faced can be instructive, helping them navigate a way toward success.


“The feeling of uncertainty is good. It is important to keep going because we are future lawyers, business owners, politicians, media moguls and scientists. We will make the big decisions that keep our world moving forward,” he said.


Clarice Gerbl (Institution: Lubbock Christian University, Texas; Internship: Special Olympics) echoed that sentiment and said she was grateful for the opportunity to grow so much in just a few months.


“We have opened ourselves to ten weeks of radical transformation,” she said. “It was not easy, it was not always comfortable, but it was courageous.”


Bianca Ordonez (Institution: Florida International University; Internship: CommunityRED) described her long journey from humble beginnings in Queens, N.Y., to pursuing her passion in D.C. “Sometimes I wondered how a girl like me could stand out in this town. Just as you helped me this summer, you will help others who also felt uncertain.”


To cap off the afternoon, a student singer sent off the summer Class of 2014 with a rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unbroken” that inspired the entire auditorium to sing along.


Click here to view photos from the Commencement ceremony.

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