We had the good fortune of connecting with Akaysha Palmer and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Akaysha, how do you think about risk?
Someone very close to me once told me, “Every disappointment is an appointment.” This information has stayed with me for the majority of my life, reminding me that when one door closes another opens. Every opportunity and blessing that I have worked for and received is because I decided to take a chance on myself and take that risk. When I was 13 years old, I applied for an internship program for the summer and was rejected. I spent days trying to figure out why I was not the perfect match and what I could have done in my interview to be better. Eventually, I reminded myself again that everything happens for a reason, and it just was not my time to intern there yet. The following year, I interviewed for the program again and was selected. I was placed at New York Common Pantry, in Harlem, New York, and I know that it was divine timing that led me there. Initially, I thought that I would be stacking cans on shelves all day and did not expect to connect to people the way that I did. I would stay after my internship to volunteer in the Hot Meals Program, serving hot meals to guests and connecting with the homeless individuals that would come into the Pantry. Prior to interning at the New York Common Pantry, I volunteered and interned before; however, this experience left a lasting imprint on me. I always felt urged to help homeless individuals as I would see them in the subway in NYC or on sidewalks; however, nothing compared to serving them hot meals and conversing with them every other day. We formed relationships and got to know each other, communicating on a first-name basis. I never imagined that I would form such intimate connections with the people who came in for the services at New York Common Pantry. There was one man who came in for a meal one night and he said to me “I do not matter.” I said to him “of course you matter, or else we would not be here with you and places like this would not exist.” Based on this experience, I realized that it was important to release any implicit biases we have about homeless people. In the media, they can be portrayed as drug addicts, violent, disrespectful, etc. but people could become homeless for numerous amounts of reasons, including being laid off from work. During this internship, I had found that spark within me that made me want to pursue a career in public service; a feeling that many people spend their entire lives searching for. Ironically enough, the people at this non-profit organization took a chance on me, not knowing that this would become the highlight of my life thus far. I am an aspiring diplomat; however, moments like these have inspired me to want to start my own non-profit organization one day, dealing with the reintegration of the homeless population back into society. This vision is filled with career development, mentorship, and second chances for those who need it the most.
After interning here, door after door began to open for me as I completed high school, and who would’ve known that this all happened because I decided to take a risk in reapplying for this opportunity. Throughout college, I have continued to take risks and seize all the opportunities that I could. I founded two organizations called the Black Diplomacy Student Organization and H.A.I.R. or Having Appreciation in Realness. The Black Diplomacy Student Organization serves to provide a safe space and support for networking opportunities, career development, academic excellence, and a community for Black Diplomacy students of all grade levels and beyond. H.A.I.R. Serves to create a safe space within the natural hair community, where one can learn more about, care for and appreciate their natural hair. Both organizations started with an idea that friends and peers helped to cultivate into a reality. When starting something new you can never be sure about the people that it will reach or the impact that it will have; however, you must begin somewhere and take that risk.
I also serve as a scholar in the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Association, a student representative on the School of Diplomacy Advisory Board, am a published author, and am involved in other leadership capacities. In my spare time, I enjoy writing poetry and creating paintings and other artwork. Creative expression allows me to show others who I am in more expressive ways than I would in professional settings. I see art as an outlet to connect with yourself and others, as you recreate how things are perceived through your lens. Combining art with diplomacy can be tricky, yet I take that opportunity to combine my passions daily and reach others through more than just words. In all that I do, I continue to take risks and prove to myself that in taking the first step I am seizing every opportunity that comes my way.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am currently a senior at Seton Hall University, Class of 2022. I am studying Diplomacy and International Relations with minors in Economics and Spanish. I serve as a research assistant for the University Core curriculum, am a student representative on the School of Diplomacy Advisory board, and am a member of several other student organizations on campus. Upon graduation, I will attend graduate school at Columbia University where I’ll earn a master’s degree in public administration in economic and political development, in hopes of one day helping developing nations make use of sustainable development practices. I was selected as a 2022 Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellow, where I will be interning on Capitol Hill for the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, and will receive funding toward my enrollment at Columbia, and a guaranteed career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

Getting to where I am today has not been easy, as I had no idea about careers in Foreign Service prior to starting my academic journey at Seton Hall. Learning about the adversities that my ancestors have faced, continued to motivate me and assure me that I can make opportunities and live an impactful life despite any hardship. I want everyone reading this to know that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to, and all that you can do is limitless regardless of what those around you may think.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being from New York City, I would recommend showing a friend around Times Square, SoHo, and Koreatown! I would take them to get Korean food, and order a beef bulgogi bibimbap; my favorite meal. I would also suggest ordering some Korean Soda and exploring the area after dinner. We would also go to visit some of the different shops and thrift stores in SoHo the following day, showing them the life of the city as we make our way back uptown towards Times Square. Times Square is a popular tourist destination, known for its flashing lights and energy as the place that never sleeps. I also believe that some of the most fun places to check out include art museums, and there are so many to choose from in NYC. My favorites of them all would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art because of the diversity within art and creative expression.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to shout out to my family for their ongoing support and encouragement. Every opportunity seized and risk taken was because of their motivation and love, so thank you! Without you, I would not be where I am today, or could even become half of the woman that I aspire to be. You are my biggest fans; I love you!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iamakaysha/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/akaysha-palmer-506bb5181/

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