The first time Alena Washington ’22 spoke in front of her entire high school, she forgot her written introduction. She had to go straight to a piece of literature she memorized. Even though she forgot some of her prepared words, her voice was still able to move the audience. “It was amazing,” she said.
What might have been a mortifying experience for most teenagers instead served as an inspiration for Washington. Addressing her classmates as a first-year high school student only heightened her interest and love for public speaking.
“I enjoy the idea of words being able to create and elicit feelings, thoughts, questions, and inspiration for the people who are listening,” Washington said. “I’ve been fascinated with the idea that my voice can be that powerful.”
At Babson College, Washington has embraced the power of her words and her voice.
In early 2020, right before the pandemic closed campus, she was a keynote speaker for admitted students at the women’s overnight event for the Office of Undergraduate Admission. The power of her speech, which touched on the Babson undergraduate experience, led Washington to find connections with incoming students, including as a Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) mentor. “The student I was paired with told me that she had heard my speech, and that’s why she wanted me as her mentor,” she said.
Washington now will have one more opportunity to address her Babson classmates as the undergraduate speaker at the College’s Commencement ceremony on May 14. The opportunity brings both excitement and nerves.
“I’ve always been able to speak on behalf of myself, and now I’m able to speak on behalf of my class, so I do feel some responsibility for that,” she said. If her track record has anything to say, her speech—and what she has accomplished at Babson—will certainly leave a lasting impression.
A Campus Family
A desire to inspire and lead has persisted for Washington, even as she wraps up her time at Babson. She is one of 10 graduating Posse Scholars, New York City-based students who receive four-year merit scholarships from the Posse Foundation.
This spring, Washington joined all of the current Posse Scholars, as well as staff, faculty, and other students for the annual PossePlus Retreat, which was held in person at the Babson Executive Conference Center. The theme of the retreat was “Calling on Community,” and included hours of group discussions, icebreakers, and a student talent show.
Instead of lending her elocution talents to the showcase, Washington deferred to the younger students experiencing their first retreat together. “When you’re on your way out the door, for me, it was almost more important the younger Posses were able to bond,” she said.
“I really wanted to be part of clubs and organizations, but I also have a passion for creating things. When I saw something I wanted to create, I created it.”
Alena Washington ’22
That bond among Posse Scholars is strong even before they land on campus, as the new cohort meets in New York City before coming to Babson. “You have a family before getting here,” Washington said, “and then when you get here, you grow up with these people.”
The retreat in March was a chance to wrap up the work that Babson Posse 15 started five years ago. Posse Mentor and Professor of Finance Laurie Krigman gave a farewell presentation to the graduating seniors, highlighting accomplishments, group activities over the years, and their connections with each other.
Learning and Creativity Outside the Classroom
Washington’s list of accomplishments and extracurricular activities is impressive, including being a volunteer teaching English and entrepreneurship, a former resident assistant, a CWEL mentor, a Babson team representative at the 2020 National Diversity Case Competition, and a member of the Black Student Union and Origins of Necessary Equality (O.N.E.), all while completing her degree with a concentration in finance.
The most impressive of all, though, is what she brought to campus and all of her activities. “I really wanted to be part of clubs and organizations, but I also have a passion for creating things,” Washington said. “When I saw something I wanted to create, I created it.”
That included making her interests more accessible to the entire Babson community, and as a first-year student, she had a keen interest in the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ). She created an event from nothing, tapping into her personal network and inviting Google staff members to campus herself. She planned and hosted a panel and networking event about EQ, called “Personal Branding with Google,” which took over two months to plan and had almost 100 attendees.
Washington called the event “little,” but its impact was anything but.
Krigman, Washington’s Posse mentor, taught her in Introduction to Finance and has seen her build opportunities from scratch. “I’ve watched her take on huge responsibilities on her own. She likes to make a difference,” said Krigman. “She took it on herself to create something (the Google event) that didn’t exist. She’s not afraid of anything.”
Her drive to build community connections and provide opportunities for herself and others will continue beyond her graduation from Babson. Washington hopes to build out a career that mixes both her passion for creativity and volunteer work and her business acumen.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to hopefully have an impact on people and on industry and hopefully try to continue to share and spread genuineness and authenticity—and love and support to people—and do that in a lot of different ways. Let that come through in finance, let that come through in my volunteer work,” Washington said.
The first stop on her post-Babson journey is Deloitte, where she will work as an analyst. It’s an opportunity that she hopes will allow her to continue giving back and creating opportunities for education and enrichment while she experiences the finance world at work.
And, it probably will create more opportunities to lead and inspire with her words.
Posted in Campus & Community