STUDENT Spotlight
‘A day to remember’: BCPS alumnus graduates from White House mentorship program

07/31/2015

Student Spotlight
Charles Edmunds

Which day was the best one of your life? Which day became the one that you’ll never forget and the one about which you’ll tell your children – and, someday, perhaps even your grandchildren? For Charles “Chuck” Edmunds, that day was when he graduated from the White House Mentorship and Leadership Program.

A 2015 graduate of George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, Edmunds applied for the program at the recommendation of his high school’s principal, Karen Steele. According to Edmunds, Steele saw in him “skills and traits” that not only propelled his success as a student but also rendered him the perfect candidate for a program seeking to extend that success beyond the classroom.

“The White House Mentorship and Leadership Program is a program started underneath President Barack Obama,” says Edmunds. “It was designed to ensure young men of color, who are focused, intelligent and natural leaders, stay on the right road to becoming the future leaders of society.”

To be considered for the program, Edmunds traveled to Washington, D.C., for an interview with a member of the president’s staff. By mid-July 2014, he learned that, from a pool of 120 applicants, he and 14 other students from the Delmarva area would form the program’s first class of mentees.

“We sent in summaries about ourselves with background and just some things about ourselves, then were paired up with our mentors, who shared some of the same traits as us,” says Edmunds about the next steps in the mentee selection process. “My mentor was Gregory Lorjuste.”

A deputy assistant to the president and director of scheduling at the White House, Lorjuste served as a compass for growth for Edmunds, meeting with and guiding him through activities intended to promote his personal and professional development.

“Charles is a great kid,” says Lorjuste. “From the very beginning of the White House Mentoring program, Charles was committed to giving it his all. I am amazed at how mature Charles is for his age.”

Edmunds’ commitment and maturity, Lorjuste adds, showed not only in his ability to balance a full school schedule and apart-time job with events and meetings for the program but in his foresight and determination, as well.

“He has a vision and works hard every day to achieve his goals,” says Lorjuste about Edmunds. “We both learned a lot from each other and have made a promise to continue building a strong bond with each other.

Lorjuste, though, wasn’t the only White House employee with whom Edmunds became close through the program; he also spent time with the man responsible for the program’s inception.

“We played basketball with the president,” says Edmunds. “He had other things to do but he decided to get to know us a lot better... I also had lunch with the president.”

As Edmunds describes, lunch in the White House’s Diplomatic Room was as much a learning experience as it was a bonding one.

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“One of the most powerful things I learned in the program was when I had lunch with the president,” he says. “I learned that, as men of color, we have to work twice as hard to be successful and to be leaders in this world.”

While working “twice as hard” became a recurring theme as Edmunds and the other mentees explored opportunities for college and gained exposure to possible careers, the obstacles that they faced became worth the struggle when they gathered this summer for their graduation from the program. Surrounded by their families, mentors and others in the Blue Room of the White House, the program’s participants experienced what Edmunds calls “a day to remember.”

“Graduation from the program was probably one of the best days of my life,” he says. “Seeing my mentor place a White House pin, a pin that very few people possess, on me was amazing, as was having my last picture as a group taken with my fellow brothers and the president... It was definitely a day to remember.”

In addition to a speech given by the president, the graduation also featured remarks from the mentors about the achievements of their respective mentees. For Edmunds, Lorjuste’s words about him and his accomplishments stood out among the many highlights of the ceremony.

“The best moment,” he says, “was when my mentor was saying those amazing words about me. It almost made me cry.”
Like Lorjuste’s remarks, the experiences and knowledge that Edmunds gained by participating in the program also stay with him now that his involvement has ended.

“Being in this program helped me to prepare not just for college but for understanding the real world and creating networks,” he says. “I believe I now have an advantage when looking for a job or internships.”

And, so far, he’s been right: after earning a spot in Morgan State’s incoming freshman class for the fall 2015 semester, Edmunds joined the university’s summer Pace Program in preparation for his first year of college. In addition to acclimating him to the campus and college life, the five-week program also helped him to get a head start on his studies in engineering.
But, as the new school year approaches, Edmunds has more than academic success on his mind.

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“I want to make sure I pass all my classes,” he says about his hopes for the upcoming school year. “And I also want to start a mentoring program for elementary kids.”

With a year’s worth of experience as a mentee behind him, Edmunds certainly has the knowledge and understanding necessary to do just that.

The White House Mentorship and Leadership Program is one of several male youth development opportunities aligned with the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. For more information about the initiative, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper.

Story by Blake Lubinski, Department of Communications and Community Outreach. Photos courtesy of the White House.

 

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