SRU student takes part in USOC minority leadership program
Gervon Williams, a senior sport management major from Chambersburg, at the 2015 United States Olympic Committee’s 22nd annual Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere program. The program was held at the USOC training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
July 23, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Gervon Williams, a senior sport management major from Chambersburg, recently spent eight days taking part in the exclusive 2015 United States Olympic Committee's 22nd annual Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere program.
Williams was one of only 30 college students from around the country selected to take part in the program out of a field of more than 300 applicants.
One of the nation's premier diversity summits for undergraduate and graduate students, FLAME's mission is to give minority college level students a special look into the world of elite sports while inspiring individuals to cultivate their desire to succeed and rise above ordinary level of expectations.
"Being selected to take part in FLAME was an absolute honor," said Williams. "It's something that I wanted to be a part of as soon as I found out about it. To be one of the select few chosen was an amazing feeling."
Williams learned of FLAME through an e-mail from Catriona Higgs, SRU sport management professor. He then contacted mentor AJ Turkovich, an SRU alumnus and current manager of consumer products and marketing with the USOC, who encouraged him to apply.
"I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to take a jump forward in my career pursuit," said Williams. "I knew I had to do it."
Williams, the only attendee from a university in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, and his peers spent eight days at the USOC's complex in Colorado Springs, Colo., taking part in a rigorous curriculum that was designed in part to teach participants how to set and achieve goals, enhance leadership skills, increase their self-confidence, improve communication strategies and establish a discipline of self discovery.
Throughout the eight days, USOC staff, Olympians, Paralympians and community leaders who have achieved personal, professional or athletic success in life spoke during seminars and workshops.
"My biggest takeaway was to always maintain my uniqueness," said Williams. "Being unique is what makes you standout not only during job interviews, but also in life. They also encouraged us to actively tell our personal story and to listen to other people's stories. That kind of sharing establishes relationships among co-workers and bosses."
The 2015 speaker program was highlighted by two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, five-time Olympic medalist Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Willie Banks, Paralympian Jennifer Chew, U.S. Paralympics Associate Director of Community and Military Programs John Register and USOC Chief of Organizational Excellence Benita Fitzgerald Mosley. Additional speakers included Jorge Quezada, chief diversity officer of Kraft Foods Group. Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder of BET, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment gave a keynote address
"Honestly my expectations going to Colorado were high," said Williams. "When a program only takes 30 of 300 applicants a year you know it's important. I put my desire to advance my career aside and just opened myself up to learning from all of the speakers."
Williams is eager to bring his newfound information back to Slippery Rock for his final year. Williams, who is minoring in international affairs in addition to his sport management major, keeps busy during the academic year as a member of the club tennis team at SRU, a co-student director of Slippery Rock's Special Olympics, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and as part of SRU's model U.N. and model NATO programs.
"I learned so much from my time in Colorado," said Williams. "I'm excited to get back to Slippery Rock. I have a lot of knowledge to share with anyone who will want to listen. I also want to help make it so Slippery Rock has someone attending FLAME every year. I think it was that important of an experience."
After graduation, Williams hopes to work in development and outreach for a major sport governing body. His experience with FLAME coupled with his time at SRU has prepared him for the future.
"It would be hard to go to Slippery Rock and leave unprepared for your future," said Williams. "From all of the professors and mentors to the school name itself, it's all been so unique."
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