Isaiah Washington, Lenfest ‘18, with Emily Roat, Lenfest ‘19, during a tour of campus
My first semester in college involved me cultivating positive on-campus relationships, getting involved in extracurricular activities, exploring D.C., and excavating a place for myself on American University’s campus. This semester, American University offered me multiple opportunities to serve the community, participate in a vibrant arts scene, have internships, and have on-campus avenues to explore journalism and social activism.
It has been a vehicle for me to refine my leadership skills and elevate them to a new level of engagement in the nation’s capital. I completed leadership and group dynamics training with the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars cohort and was inundated with exemplary speakers including NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd and Former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Whether I was tasting exquisite cupcakes in Georgetown or listening to the Kennedy Center National Symphony Orchestra or photographing the Botanical Garden or embracing the Newseum for the last time, I began to orient myself with the city and anatomize what makes my new home so exceptional. My semester was defined by me broadening my repertoire of experiences. I took a Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art) class and celebrated Día de los Muertos at the National Portrait Gallery for the first time. I also implemented traditions like “Chick-fil-A Tuesdays,” white elephant gift exchanges, and Friendsgiving with other members of the Honors community, harmonizing myself with this once unfamiliar space.
My first semester illustrated just how indispensable a network of support is to a freshman’s success. My nurturing family was able to experience student life with me during my school’s All-American Weekend which is a smorgasbord of exhibitions, tours, receptions, and meals with the purpose of reconnecting students with their loved ones. I also received encouragement from the Lenfest community. I was able to have lunch with Suzi Nam during which I received compelling advice and reassurance. My consistent communication with Rachel Fumia along with her magnanimous college care package exemplifies the perennial sponsorship the Lenfest community demonstrates.
In the classroom, I was able to hybridize my love for literature and performing as I delivered Mark Antony’s eulogy for Julius Caesar for extra credit in my Shakespeare’s First Decade course. My professor purchased my class tickets to go see Henry IV, Part I at the Folger Theatre, assigning us a coinciding performance analysis essay. I had the opportunity to discuss reimagining the Shakespeare canon to accomodate a modern setting. My fall schedule reinvigorated the learning environment as a mode for challenging and rebranding preconceived notions, analyzing, synthesizing, and effectuating.
Outside of the classroom, I found how cardinal it was to establish connections with my professors during office hours as they elucidated criteria, provided direction for essays, evaluated my performance, and shared their educational and career pathways. My required field research allowed me to audit the forces shaping gentrification and displacement in the D.C. area as I captured anthropological snapshots of the Salvadoran and Ethiopian communities of the DMV area. My involvement in various organizations including the campus newspaper and the National Society of High School Scholars Student Council anchored me to my deep penchant for journalism and desire to galvanize others into positive action.
Nearing the end of the semester, I was given the opportunity to connect with a new Lenfest scholar interested in attending American University, giving her a tour of the classrooms, dorm rooms, lounge areas, and assorted buildings. This experience made my entire college search-and-find adventure come full circle as I was able to offer the clarity the Lenfest community provided me with during my own decision process. I discovered a deeper appreciation for the journey that has led me to where I am today and for the people serving as luminating lanterns who guided me there. I look forward to the lessons and experiences awaiting me in the rest of my college career.
A 2019 graduate of South Western High School in Hanover, PA, Isaiah Washington is a member of the class of 2023 at American University. In addition to being a Lenfest Scholar, he was chosen as a member of the Honors living-learning community and as an AU Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar, a program which aims to “elevate the college-to-career experience of our most enterprising Honors students and propel them into successful careers in health, medicine, business, government, law, education, communications, and creative industries.”