As members of The Junior League of Austin (JLA), we have the opportunity to make a difference not only today—but also for the future.
JLA was honored to be invited by Deidra Floyd, an active JLA member and the assistant principal at Canyon Creek Elementary, to speak at the Round Rock ISD (RRISD) World Class Student Leadership Conference. After our leadership participated in the virtual event in 2021, we were excited to be invited back to present on girls in leadership for RRISD’s in-person conference in 2022.
As part of the conference, JLA was asked to present on how we contribute to the Austin community through leadership and volunteerism. After a fun day with these bright future leaders, I’m excited to share my firsthand experience from the conference.
Before we got started, I asked all the students to sit next to someone they didn’t know. I told them how I don’t know anyone in the room but reminded them that we all want the same thing—to learn and share about why leading and volunteering means something to us—so we are all among friends. I was inspired by how they all instantly got up and stepped out of their comfort zones in an effort to be vulnerable with me.
To kick us off, I introduced myself and talked about my family, interests, and volunteer history with the League and in the Austin area. I told the young leaders that I was on the student council when I was in elementary school and would have loved a cool conference like the one they had that day. I broke down the JLA mission statement for them, and I explained why I appreciate being part of a large group of women who want to make a meaningful impact and help each other learn and grow in the process. I also asked the students to share where they have volunteered and what organizations they know about in the community. I got an array of responses, including animal shelters (using my own rescue dog to jump-start this connection), food pantries, assistance of individuals with disabilities, and community impact organizations. The students were all excited to hear about the different organizations around the Central Texas area and share what they already know about volunteering.
We talked about how we can prioritize our time for community service. The children gushed about their personal interests and their involvement with the student council. I congratulated the entire group on choosing to be part of the student council, showing up for the conference, and learning more about volunteering.
The students also wanted to know about the impact of JLA. I used numbers to help with the narrative, sharing how we have more than 2,400 members who commit to 160,000 combined hours of service. I shared how we provide volunteer opportunities and funds to other organizations to help their important work. One student asked about our fundraising efforts, which gave me the opportunity to describe A Christmas Affair and how they could connect with family members or trusted adults to learn more.
I ended with talking about how I use what I’ve learned in my JLA placements to help in my work life and how, in return, I use professional experiences to contribute to JLA. I used my current role as Parliamentarian as an example. The young leaders connected with the concept that a Parliamentarian is like having a referee at a meeting to help everything run smoothly, follow the rules that everyone agrees to, and help teach people what the rules are. My hope is the students left feeling inspired to use their individual strengths to create value through volunteerism.
Before I knew it, the time was up. I was in awe of how the students wanted to keep up the conversation about how to volunteer, their experience volunteering, and what they want to do next. One of the students drew a picture of my dog Rosie from my bio slide and thanked me for sharing about my time volunteering and helping my community. I melted when she gave it to me! I proudly have the drawing on my refrigerator, and it makes me smile every time I see it.
I sincerely appreciate JLA and RRISD for this opportunity to connect with student leaders and hopefully show them that their career in service is only beginning.
About the Writer: Amanda Lopez joined The Junior League of Austin (JLA) in 2017. Austin is her hometown, and she has been impressed by JLA ever since participating in the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program (now Con Mi MADRE). Amanda stays busy using her attorney mindset and skills to support the development of an opioid abatement grant program at the Texas Comptroller’s office. When she is not in the office, you can catch Amanda running around Town Lake, hiking with her rescue dog, enjoying a local restaurant, or spending time with her family.