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GSA supports BIG day for future leaders

GSA employee Lloyd Caldwell leading discussion during Juneteenth program at GSA Building 1800 F Street NW
GSA employee and BIG Banneker Chapter member Lloyd Caldwell leading discussion during Juneteenth program at GSA Building 1800 F Street NW, Washington D.C., June 22, 2023. Photo by James Miller.

WASHINGTON — One way the U.S. General Services Administration is ensuring it will be able to continue meeting its mission tomorrow is by investing in community outreach today.

On Thursday, June 22, GSA’s Benjamin Banneker Chapter of Blacks in Government partnered with the ForKids organization to co-sponsor a Juneteenth National Independence Day celebration of learning and leadership at the GSA Building on 1800 F Street NW in Washington, D.C. for a group of current and soon-to-be college-bound Virginia high school students.

The day was the brainchild of GSA Pathways’ General Engineer and Banneker Chapter member Lloyd Caldwell, who collaborated with GSA Senior Advisor and Banneker Chapter President Pia Scott and co-chaired all activities with GSA Program Officer and Banneker Chapter Vice President Rickey Parker. Together, they led the design and implementation of programming that included discussions of historical figures and events such as Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and Juneteenth, as well as professional leadership and soft skills training.

“When Lloyd came to me with the idea for this day, I was really inspired to help him make it a reality,” said Parker. “Lloyd is heavily involved with mentoring young people through ForKids on his own time, so he was a perfect connection between that organization, BIG’s Benjamin Banneker Chapter, and GSA.”

“Our kids need the help of our community and to learn our community’s history,” said Caldwell. “Knowing about and taking pride in your past is the starting point in making your way to a successful future.”

The program focused on exposing participating students to seasoned professionals who look like them and have successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Many black kids do not get this type of exposure, and I was one of those kids,” said Caldwell. “We wanted to change that narrative while celebrating Juneteenth.”

GSA employee Rickey Parker Caldwell leading discussion during Juneteenth program at GSA Building 1800 F Street NW
GSA employee and BIG Banneker Chapter Vice President Rickey Parker leading discussion during Juneteenth program at GSA Building 1800 F Street NW, Washington D.C., June 22, 2023. Photo by James Miller.

Selection of all participating students was through their demonstrated promise and outstanding scholarship. They traveled from Hampton Roads, Virginia the day prior to be in the GSA Building at 9:30 a.m. Thursday for an opening rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing [PDF],” followed by a keynote address from GSA National Capital Regional Administrator Eliot Doomes. Other GSA speakers included a host of agency design, construction, and contracting leaders. One such speaker was GSA Senior Advisor and Banneker Chapter President Pia Scott.

“BIG exists to help Black people succeed in federal employment. Our members give of themselves to serve our community and our nation,” Scott said.

This program was part of the Banneker Chapter’s month-long Juneteenth celebration focused on academic excellence, college scholarships, and leadership development training.

"Events like these are crucial tools in exposing Black youth to federal service. The earlier we can get young people excited about government, the more likely they are to make it their career,” Scott added.

After a full morning of educational and instructional activities — including a tour of the GSA Innovation Lab — the students enjoyed a lunch paid for by the Banneker Chapter’s membership, a walk along historic Constitution Avenue, a visit to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and an award ceremony where they received event completion certificates.

These future leaders left feeling inspired and grateful for the day.

“Seeing people that look like me and hearing their success stories was very empowering,” said one of the teens participating in the Juneteenth program. “It’s nice to know that there are people who come from where I am and have faced similar trials and tribulations like I have in higher-up and leadership positions at a government agency.”

An incoming junior at Oscar Smith High School, the teen mentioned that she has aspirations of creating her own nonprofit organization and becoming a writer. She indicated this program was helpful for her because she received tools that will help her chart a path to make her plans a reality.

The ForKids organization also wrote in with a thank you and follow up to the Banneker Chapter to detail what the day meant for the youths involved:

"Everyone spoke about how all the speakers were able to connect on a personal level with the teens. The teens walked away truly inspired. One of our teens that attended the trip is currently in the foster care system. She was really touched by the speaker that shared his journey after exiting the foster care system and his path to success. One of our goals is for the teens to see what opportunities lay ahead of them. This event accomplished that for this particular teen in a meaningful way."

For more information about GSA’s Benjamin Banneker Chapter of Blacks in Government and its community outreach initiatives, please contact Chapter President Pia Scott at pia.scott@gsa.gov.