Lela Johnston, a Political Science major with a minor in Nonprofit Studies, gave the student address at NC State University‘s commencement exercises on May 9, 2015 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh. Standing before more than 5,400 graduates, Lela asked, “What are your plans for after graduation?”
Johnston grew up in Raleigh and has always been active in the Wake County community. Her involvement carried over to her NC State community, as well. She worked at University Recreation for two and half years, spending her senior year as a Facility Operations Program Assistant and a Facility Supervisor. In the fall of her junior year, Lela studied abroad at Copenhagen Business School in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was very involved with University Theater, performing in musicals, showcases, and galas throughout her college career. During her time at State, Lela interned with EMILY’s List in Washington, D.C., worked on Hagan for U.S. Senate, and interned with NARAL Pro-Choice NC.
These internships through the Nonprofit Studies minor allowed Johnston, “to translate what I was learning in the classroom to action. They were definitely the most meaningful parts of my college career.” She considers her major and minor to be very complimentary of each other as the nonprofit sector is a critical element of the political environment. “Nonprofit organizations work through and with the government to create systemic change in our community. Without these partnerships, neither the government nor nonprofit organizations could be as effective.”
Johnston hopes to use both her major and minor either in a career in Washington, D.C., or as part of a 2016 political campaign. Wherever she ends up, she knows her undergraduate career has provided her with the tools to effect positive change.
When taking time to reflect on her journey at State, the overarching lesson Lela identified to take with her as she faces this next chapter in her life is to Think and Do. “Whether your next step is a job, grad school, traveling, or simply taking time for yourself, know that the challenging, beautiful journey that’s brought you to these seats is proof that you can do anything. You can follow each of your passions, creating a life that is so uniquely you, no matter how unexpected, if only you Think and Do.”