We recently caught up with Crystal Adams ’12, a dual major in Government and Psychology with a Leadership Series sequence, and asked her a few questions about the time she spent in the Washington Program. It was the Spring Semester of her junior year and, as Crystal explains, the Washington Program was the prime reason she enrolled in CMC.
Q: What specifically drew you to participate in the Washington Program?
Crystal: I was drawn to the Washington Program for many reasons. From a young age, I realized that I was passionate about public service and social justice. I also naturally gravitated toward leadership roles throughout extracurricular activities and pursued a variety of opportunities to participate in local government. As a high school student, I learned about the Washington Program when I was exploring colleges, and I immediately connected with the ambitious, demanding and door-opening focus of the Program. I decided to attend CMC largely due to the existence of the Program.
Once at CMC, my interest and excitement about the Program grew rapidly. I attended the various informational events about the Program and sat in awe as Program alums discussed in vivid and eager detail the wide range of experiences they had during their time in DC. The one thing that was consistent about these events was how ecstatic Program alums were to share the lessons they learned, their accomplishments and future plans. They were all so happy that they had participated. They were confident, professional and clearly more capable and knowledgeable as a direct result of their time in DC. I was impressed and inspired. As a freshman, I was already certain that I wanted to apply.
As I continued through my time at CMC, my academic and professional ambitions became clear: I wanted to pursue a career committed to civil rights (particularly in the area of education policy). DC remained an ideal location and the Program remained the ideal avenue through which I could fulfill this goal.
Q: What skill set did you gain from participation in the Program that helped you in your academic or work career?
Crystal: Through my internship in the legislative office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's office, I developed a variety of skills that have remained useful in my academic and professional career. I learned to write more clearly, concisely and efficiently. I learned to more effectively tailor my communication style to the reader or audience I was addressing. I also honed my knowledge of and ability to navigate the countless research resources available to Hill staff, as well as the general public. I learned how to make myself indispensable; I worked very hard and always sought opportunities to contribute, no matter the task. As a result, I received more assignments and special rewards in recognition of my efforts.
Q: Can you give a brief synopsis of your career/life after graduating from CMC?
Crystal: After graduating from CMC in 2012, I enrolled in UC Irvine School of Law, where I continued to pursue my passion for public service, civil rights and social justice. I received my law degree in May 2015, passed the California bar exam, and moved to DC where I am working as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Housing Development in the Office of General Counsel's Fair Housing Enforcement Division. Through this role, I enforce the Fair Housing Act, a civil rights law which prohibits housing discrimination.
Q: How did participation in the Program help you to get where you are today in your life/career?
Crystal: The Program provided countless opportunities for me to invest in my professional development. I honestly do not believe I would be where I am today were it not for the Program. During that semester, I met a wide variety of professionals who considered law school or received law degrees, and the conversations I had with these individuals clarified my decision to apply to law school. I also learned a great deal about the type of assignments that I find fulfilling; the office environments in which I thrive; and the type of mentoring and supervision I prefer. The Program gives students a unique and unparalleled opportunity to lead ambitious, independent, and fulfilling lives in the nation's capital. To put the Program into context, the requirements, pace, and opportunities I experienced through CMC's Washington Program were more rigorous than the semester I spent in DC as a law student. The Program absolutely changed my life.
Q: What is your fondest memory that you gained during your participation in the Program?
Crystal: Networking is essential in life. The connections we make in professional, social, and personal contexts can, and often, impact all aspects our lives. It is wise to recognize this reality and face interactions with new people with a smile, open mind and solid handshake. Make the most of moments where you can connect with others. Networking is constantly associated with negative thoughts; we could all probably be better about incorporating it in our lives. But it does not need to be a source of stress or angst.
Interesting, sincere, and generous people are everywhere, and they are in no short supply in DC. Take advantage of the time you're in DC, and make some real connections. You never know what might happen as a result. You might discover a job opportunity, a new resource that is useful in your professional or academic career, or you might make a new friend. Regardless of whether you envision yourself returning to DC after the Program ends, take advantage of the very special time you have. It may be cheesy, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. I treasured every moment, and it made all the difference. I still keep in touch with contacts I made during my Washington Program semester. And the memories will last me a lifetime.
Also, on a more personal note, the Program confirmed that I could thrive personally and professionally in DC, that I should go to law school, and that I could excel in a public service career.
Q: What in your view is the true value of the Washington Program and why CMC students should be eager participants?
Crystal: The Washington Program is one of the most empowering, exciting and well respected opportunities for professional development that CMC, or any academic institution for that matter, offers. Any CMC student, regardless of major or career goals, can find enormous value in the Program. Students are encouraged to make their experience whatever they want it to be. This Program opens infinite doors and possibilities. It's thrilling, fun, and an excellent investment in students' futures.