My first days with The Institute

Institute Scholars-class of 2008 and class of 2009

Institute Scholars-class of 2008 and class of 2009

On Saturday May 31st, 2008, I eagerly arrived for my first day with The Institute for Responsible Citizenship. I entered the Institute with very high expectations. I had been anticipating this moment since my junior year in high school, when a mentor of mine prematurely introduced me to the program and encouraged me to apply. Since then, I have anxiously awaited the opportunity to join the program.

I was initially impressed with the mission of the program, which “is to inspire promising young men to become vigorous advocates of the American ideal, caring men dedicated to serving others, dynamic role models for African American boys losing hope, and leaders with the integrity to stand for real solutions regardless of prevailing sentiment.” I also loved the idea of being around students who wish to lead a life dedicated to service and who also thought exceptionally on issues of social justice. I had believed that I could benefit both personally and intellectually in my ambitions to serve humanity through meeting brothers a part of the program. When I first heard I was accepted to the Institute I became overjoyed. I told all of my closest friends, mentors and family members about the news. I had always wanted to be a part of this program since my junior year in high school and somehow my dreams came true.  

I arrived on the campus of American University with my sister and my mother who drove me three hours up to D.C. from Philly. My mother helped me unpack. The Institute’s program director asked all of the “Institute Scholars” to bring several sports jackets because we would have many formal gatherings, so most of my belongings included these things. I met my roommate Ernie Jolly, a student at Cornell University. Ernie and I immediately clicked. Like me, Ernie serves as the President of his college’s Black Student Union; therefore, we had a lot to talk about concerning this student activity. Ernie also took several courses in African American Studies, therefore we were able to converse a lot on this subject. My other roommate, a track and field all-star, and presidential scholar at the University of Southern California did not arrive until about three weeks into the program because he had to compete in track and field nationals where he did well.

The second day of the program was orientation. At orientation, everyone introduced themselves; we received an overview of what we should expect over the next two months, and later completed a scavenger hunt that took us to numerous historical and national landmarks around Washington, D.C.   I was most impressed with hearing the other brothers in the program present a synopsis on their background and their service in the community. Their achievements were quite outstanding.

Mr. William Keyes, the President and Founder of the Institute noted to us that we represented some of the best and brightest minds in this nation. He told us he was most concerned about “not what we going to be (careers), but I’m concerned about who we going to be.” He was interested in making sure that this program offered an addendum to our social conscious and will mold us into fine gentlemen who overly concern themselves with our world’s most pressing issues.

Within the first few days, I knew I was a part of the right program. I knew God did the right thing by allowing me to participate as a member of The Institute for Responsible Citizenship.

 Yours in the struggle, I am
Brother Phillips




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