When I was first recruited by the Cal State LA Golden Key chapter President, Jennifer Chau, in 2008, I didn’t really know what Golden Key was—nor did the President herself, or any of the other two officers who responded to her recruitment email, yet somehow we jumped right in, conducted a membership drive and a recognition ceremony in a few months’ time, and attended the international conference in New Orleans to help Katrina victims a year after that devastating hurricane. Afterward, some of us in that group moved on to other things, but I decided to stay. And now, with graduation coming in June and having been president of this chapter for two years, I have all the main benefits of Golden Key memorized by heart: academic recognition, scholarships, leadership . . . the list goes on. But now, looking back, I realize that all those qualities of what makes this organization special can simply be summed up in one word: service.
It was definitely nice to be recognized for my grades, and it looks great on my résumé. Yet my experience with this organization has transformed my college experience. I will never forget how sweet the homemade iced tea was after Ken, the treasurer at the time, and I took a break from landscaping in 90-degree heat in the dead of noon in the suburbs of New Orleans, giving a few hours of our time to beautifying the neighborhood. I will also not forget the smiles on the elementary school kids as they played hop scotch and other Dr. Suess-themed games at the EPIC America Reads and Counts Program, or the laughter I shared with UC Riverside and Irvine members as we ate and drank while playing Forrest Gump trivia at the Bubba Gump Restaurant for the last night of the regional Long Beach conference. It was also a lot of hard work. Many hours were spent after work and school collaborating with student organizations such as Students 4 Africa to fundraise for events, plan and organize meetings, resolve conflict between officers and myself, host social gatherings, review scholarship essays, and more. Yet it was those experiences, along with the skills I learned and acquired as an office manager, public relations representative, treasurer, literacy service director, secretary, and most of all, being an overall effective leader and communicator that I will carry with me and use in all aspects of life. I will never forget the friendships I have forged and the countless encouragements I have received from other student officers and advisor that I’ve worked with—their energy and high expectations have motivated me to strive for excellence, and even when the workload and stress from school, work, and family seemed overwhelming, I was reminded to laugh, rest, and to learn from my mistakes as we went along.
So when all those times that disgruntled members or officers have come up to me asking, “What can Golden Key do for me?” or “What can I get out of Golden Key?” I wished they had asked instead, “What can I learn from Golden Key?” Because it is this spirit of engagement, integrity, collaboration, innovation, respect, diversity, and excellence that truly enables members to reach their potential, and I cannot think of a better way to help enrich oneself than to have a chance to travel to new places, meet other honor students, make new friends, and all the while helping other people along the way.