Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to following your heart, Kial Afton knows firsthand just how important that can be. After studying Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College, Kial pursued a role as an NBC page by continually applying for a position and networking with as many people as she could. Her persistence paid off. Kial spent time as a Page and worked her way up the corporate ladder, and she is now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal.

While in college, Kial spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre, in addition to spending a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. Though she didn’t know what to study at Boston College, she took advantage of the core curriculum required for freshmen and discovered topics that she loved and would ultimately major in.

We are inspired by Kial’s drive, her positive energy, and the advice she would share with her 20-year-old self: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Turns out that when you follow your heart, great things can happen.

Name: Kial Afton
Education: B.A. in Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies from Boston College

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kial Afton: Saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Realizing it’s OK to be wrong – so long as you learn something from it.

CJ: You studied Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College. How did you decide what to study?

KA: I didn’t. Boston College has a strong liberal arts, core curriculum required for freshmen, and this was extremely valuable to someone like me who wasn’t sure what to study.

Some of my favorite classes in the core curriculum—philosophy of existence, cultural communications, international conflict and cooperation—laid the foundation for what later became my majors. I took more advanced classes offered by my favorite professors in a few different areas, including those abroad.

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CJ: You’ve spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre. You also spent a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. These experiences sound incredible! What were these experiences like and why did you choose to spend time in Athens and Venice?

KA: I absolutely studied some very interesting topics in Athens and Venice. What I learned the most from these experiences, however, happened outside of the classroom. Studying abroad for me was less about the topic than learning to understand the environment in which you’re living, growing to understand and respect different cultures, and making interpersonal connections with people you would never otherwise have the opportunity — from Alberto who sold me my daily gelato, to Caroline who had a similar major at her university in Munich!

CJ: What did your career path look like when you graduated from college?

KA: I followed my heart, which was the opposite of sensical. I spent senior year applying to NBC’s Page Program, but when I never got called to interview; I did the “responsible” thing and lined up a Boston-based Public Relations position to begin immediately following graduation. I was not excited for it or inspired by it.

When my sister in New York called to tell me her roommate was moving out, I did the least responsible thing I could image and moved to New York without a job—or at least a steady one.

I landed a part-time PR position immediately, but had to supplement my income and fill my free time with any odd job—extra work on 30 Rock and Law and Order, nannying, foot-modeling, and lastly as a “promotional marketer”—a fancy term for “passing out flyers on the street.”

All the while, I continued applying to the Page Program and networking with anyone in NBC who could stand another informational with me. Finally, it paid off.

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CJ: You spent some time as an NBC Page. What does being a Page mean, and what did your duties involve?

KA: If you’ve ever seen 30 Rock, an NBC Page is a real life version of Kenneth. Wearing Brooks Brothers’ uniforms—adorned with a name badge, pocket square and peacock pins—the primary job of a Page is to proudly lead countless studio tours and coordinate audiences for shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and The Dr. Oz Show. Pages work six days a week, twelve-plus hours each day and practically sleep at 30 Rock.

So why did I try so hard to become a Page? As Stuart Epstein, NBC’s CFO in 2011, told me on my first day, “The grey suit has the power to open any door.” And he was right. As a Page, you also have the opportunity to apply for 3-6 month assignments. I worked as the TODAY Show Green Room Page, and in marketing for NBC Sports & Olympics.

The Page Program exposes you to an array of opportunities and introduces you to some exceptional and influential people.

CJ: You are now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal. What does your role entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

KA: Building relationships with marketing, sales and top NBC Executives to gain a working knowledge of their needs and their clients’ needs in order to advance key initiatives. Once the parameters have been set, I’m given the creative freedom to research, develop, manage and execute special events across all NBCUniversal properties on a national and international scale.

CJ: You’ve been involved with events such as the Superbowl and the Olympics. What does the process look like for organizing these big events?

KA: One might think it would take an army to organize a 2,000+ client hospitality program. In actuality, it requires significant lead-time and having complete faith in your team and vendors. And adrenaline!

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CJ: What is the best part about your job? The hardest part?

KA: I work with amazing people. Blaise Cashen leads the Corporate Events Team, and is very selective in the hiring process. The team is therefore lean and mean and comprised of some of the most talented and devoted people I know.

The hard part—the hours! Finding work-life balance is challenging in any demanding company or career.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

KA: Lists, lists, and more lists! Shared calendars, outlook reminders, a notebook by the bedside, and more post-its than I’d like to admit keep me organized.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

KA: I look to sites like Pinterest and BizBash for inspiration. Developing vendor relations and networking with others in the industry, however, provide the building blocks needed to further my career.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

KA: My calm is Murphy, my Dad’s rescue dog. Early mornings in Central Park and late evenings at Tomkins Square Dog Park keep me calm and grounded.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

KA: I’m a member of Friends of Animal Rescue (to help others like Murphy) the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (to support my sister, Laine) and Planned Parenthood (I strongly support their mission).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

KA: I’m working to build the professional confidence I’m capable of projecting but have a difficult time actually feeling. I’m working to remove the inner monologue, and never apologize for my opinions—I now have the experience to have both earned them, and stand by them!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KA: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It always works out and fretting about it only gives you grey hair (seriously).

Kial Afton Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Travel

Calling all the music obsessed, Francophile, people-watching lovers out there – you have until July 5th to get to Montreal, Canada for the International Jazz Festival. Trust me, it’s an event you don’t want to miss! A few years ago, I had the opportunity to experience some of what this nine day, nonstop celebration had to offer. I’ve been dreaming of going back ever since. Starting to pique your interest? Let me give you four reasons why you should absolutely make the Montreal International Jazz fest your next adventure.

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  1. Enjoy the perks of Europe without actually going there. Montreal was colonized by the French, so as expected, French is spoken throughout the city by over 50% of its population, with English being the other official language. Traveling to this city is the perfect way to practice your French without having to spend as much money or time traveling to France. Not only will Montreal fulfill your desire for some French culture, but you can also visit its Little Italy and Greektown. Walking through the quaint, cobblestone street, you will hardly believe you didn’t cross any oceans to get there.
  1. Revel in the awesome mix of old and new music. The International Jazz Fest has featured some of the greats such as BB King, Tony Bennett, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald, and also showcases lesser-known, up-and-coming artists like Gogo Penguin, Illa J, and Florence K. With that said, you can be sure the audience is packed with people of all ages and interests. Additionally, the festival hosts more than just jazz artists. You will also hear world music, reggae, and slightly electronic beats. There is truly something for everyone.
  1. Soak up the eclectic vibes. As its name suggests, the festival is just so, well, international. With Montreal already such a diverse city, the festival brings even more styles, people, and cultures together. I remember sitting on the outdoor steps by the main stage in a massive city square amazed at the many languages I heard passing me. It was so refreshing to feel peaceful (as opposed to the usual slight nervous feeling I get in large crowds) surrounded by people who were genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
  1. Enjoy a variety of food. We know an amazing festival is never complete without it. Don’t you worry – the festival is fully stocked with food from around the globe. The Montreal International Jazz Festivals goes above and beyond the typical hotdog stand with an entire waffle kiosk, mangues en fleur (mangos carved like flowers, anyone?) kiosk, and even a Mexican food kiosk. It’s perfect.

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At this point, you have no reason not to head to Montreal for the festival. Bonne journée!

Images: Flickr and Aysia Woods

EducationLearn

Senior year of high school is a big milestone. We have prom, graduation, and plans for where we are going post-high school. Senior year was my favorite year of high school, and I had a lot of fun. Remember to make the most of every second without letting anything fall to the wayside.

1. Maintain Your Grades

Don’t forget to maintain your grades after you get accepted into college or figure out your plans after graduation. Some people think that once they get into the college of their dreams, they are free to do whatever they want. You should enjoy yourself! However, if there is a steep drop in your grades without explanation, you could lose your place in college. I’ve even known people whose grades dropped so badly, they nearly didn’t graduate at all. Just one class could separate you from your goals, so keep giving it all you’ve got.

2. Avoid Trouble

It is wise to avoid trouble during your senior year. Once you get accepted into college, a weight is off your shoulders. More than that, it’s time to celebrate! When your future finally seems secure, it’s tempting to cut loose. Just keep in mind that there could be consequences for out-of-control behavior. If you get suspended or if things escalate and you get arrested, you could lose your place in college. You may be having senior fun, but colleges don’t want someone who will reflect badly on the school.

3. Create a Legacy

I recommend creating a legacy. The end of high school provides many mementos and keepsakes such as yearbooks and photos. Some people regret how they left their mark. Some are worried that they didn’t make an impression at all. You can start a club or get involved with planning an event. You could participate in a fundraiser. It’s not just about making your mark. It’s about leaving your school a slightly better place than when you entered it.

4. Don’t Miss Out

Lastly, don’t miss a single moment. There were times when I was too tired to go to senior events. Though I don’t regret anything, I do know it was my last chance to be around the people I grew up with. Many of those people I never saw again. Treasure all of the memories you are making.

It’s okay to have fun in your senior year. Everyone does. Make the most of every single second. It’s the last time you get to live comfortably at home and to hang out with everyone you grew up with. Just don’t let enjoying the year come between you and your future.

Image: StokPic

Culture

There are plenty of things to celebrate in the world which is why there are so many holidays and special events on the calendar. The Super Bowl has quickly become its own event even though some may think of it simply as an annual football game. So why has it become so important these days?

The Super Bowl is the championship game of the professional football season. It is the highest honor in professional football. The Super Bowl has been around for decades and has not lost any steam. Last year, more than 111 million people watched the Super Bowl, showing how much its popularity has grown. As a child, I watched the game with my father who loves sports. As I got older, I realized I enjoyed the big game for all it has to offer (which is more than just the sport!).

The Super Bowl has become an event that has something to offer for everyone. For the sports fan, there is football itself. For the music fan, there is the glamorous half time show. There are also the Super Bowl commercials, known for their inventiveness, humor and heart. By combining all those factors, almost anyone can sit down and find something to be entertained by. There is no adult content that many people can take offense to. It is programming for all ages and everyone in the family. Because of this, tons of people can gather around the television and binge on their favorite junk food. Watching television has basically become a party during these few hours of the year.

The Super Bowl has evolved into a national event. That said, it is not necessarily a bad thing. While it is a major production that generates a huge amount of money and draws millions of viewers in, it is also a wonderful event because it brings people together. Here’s how you can make Super Bowl Sunday special:

  1. Join a group of people for a viewing party. This could be your family or anyone who is important to you.
  2. Pick out your favorite recipes. Thanksgiving has turkey. The Super Bowl is junk food heaven. Find your recipe and indulge or share a healthier recipe with your loved ones.
  3. Be willing to stop what you’re doing for awhile. You may be tempted to text or do something else during the parts of the game that you are not interested in. By doing that, you might miss some of the excitement. Be part of the moment.
  4. Enjoy yourself. This event isn’t steeped in meaning like some. The point is to make memories with those you are close to. Don’t miss the chance to bond with those you love.

Image: Unsplash

Travel

I am someone who loves to travel and experience new things. However, if you always looking to go elsewhere, you might miss some of the great things at home. Work and school can often keep us too busy to explore what makes the tourists flock to our town. Here are some tips to make the most out of your hometown or state:

1. Go for a long walk or drive away from your original route. If you’re used to driving to the same places all the time, you might miss what your town has to offer. You could discover a beautiful view or a shop you’ve never seen.

2. Look at your town or city website. Find out what your town is known for  – you might find something that interests you.

3. Try some different restaurants. I frequently look at Yelp around my area. It could lead you to a new restaurant. Take a look at some coupons in the mail, as it will give you an idea of what’s local so you can try it out.

4. Go window shopping. It could be in a mall area or in a strip of town stores. You never know what hidden gems you might find.

5. Attend local events. This could be a fair, a festival, a farmer’s market or something else entirely. You could find them on a town website or in your local paper. You have a chance to go out and see the people in your area. Chances are you will also find out about local businesses or restaurants that you might want to visit.

6. Join a local club. If you search for clubs in your area, you could find some people who share your interests. Spending time with them might give you more ideas on what you could do in town, maybe even as a group. Everyone I know in a town club says it’s a great way to pass the time, meet new people, and discover new interests.

I encourage you to explore your hometown. It’s a good way to do a lot of things you enjoy while traveling. You see new things, meet new people, relax, and do so without spending a lot of money. It’s a big world out there. Don’t miss what is right in front of you.

Image: Unsplash

CultureTravel

Pride parades happen all over the world these days. However, same sex marriage is not legal in all states which is why these parades are so important. It is not just the LGBT community who go to these things. There are families there. Elderly people and babies are all in attendance with admittedly some of the most flamboyant and fabulous people you ever did meet. It’s a gathering for a lot of people to come together and it has a lot to offer.
Here is a look at my San Francisco Pride Parade travel diary:
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8:30: I had to leave early. The parade started at 10:30 a.m. We decided to get off the road and take the BART because the city is hard to drive through in the best of times, let alone during a big event like Pride.
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11:30: At this time we finally made it to San Francisco. The parade watchers were five people deep. We could see a little from over their heads.
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12:00: By noon, with the parade forgotten from our vantage point, we went looking around. There is a lot of shopping to do. There aren’t just novelty items but clothes, jewelry, and more substantial things like insurance or cable.
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12:24: The Shake It! Booty Band played. They were one of many bands who performed that day to the crowds walking around or eating lunch in front of the Civic Center building.
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1:00: Eventually we had to eat. There was food from all over the world served.One of the last little known facts about parades is the free giveaways. There are always some every year. Some of what I came away with include this Orange Is The New Black poster, a Burger King crown, and sunblock.
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Along with the glitz, I think it is about the people. Companies have booths promoting their wears to all kinds. Politics and funding for charity causes are available alongside them. There are several areas where people just dance. With all the gimmicks and all the craziness, people from all demographics gather to this event that is all inclusive to everyone. In a way, it is not the pride parade but a parade and fun for the whole family. Everyone belongs somewhere.

 

EducationSkills

Summer has just started and most of you are probably too busy soaking up the sun to think about your first semester of college. But everyone else? Well, if you’re anything like I was the summer before my freshman year, then every other thought that you have is about college.

Is that a good thing? Yes!

It’s good that you’re thinking about college because, before you know it, you’ll be moving in to your dorm room and your life as a college freshman will begin. But don’t be afraid! While college can seem intimidating, it’s not as scary as you think it is. Once you get settled into your room, explore your campus, and get the hang of where all of your classes are, your university won’t feel like home just yet but it’ll be a lot more familiar.

If you want your campus to start to feel like your home away from home, then getting involved is the best way to go about making that happen. You’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to get involved if you’re the new kid on campus. Well, for starters, don’t think that just because you’re new means you can’t get involved. All of the clubs and organizations at your college will be happy to have you because that’s part of what makes college college. Outside of academics, universities thrive on student-run organizations and activities. So, to make the best of your college experience, put yourself out there and become a part of your collegiate community.

Not sure how to do that? That’s okay!

Here are a few tips on how to get involved on your campus:

Join Clubs

Most colleges dedicate a day or even a whole week to showcasing the different kinds of clubs and organizations on campus. Whether your campus has more than forty clubs or less than twenty, make sure you visit as many club/organization tables during your school’s activities fair as you can. Learn about each club and organization by talking to the people at each station, and if you like what they’re about, sign up! Clubs are a great way to submerge yourself into the community and to make new friends.

Look at the Event Calendar

As I said before, universities thrive on student-run organizations and activities. If there are any events or activities happening, chances are students were behind making them happen. Usually there are event calendars posted around campus and maybe even on the school website. Wherever it may be for you, make a note of when things are happening. Is a local band performing in the student community center? Is there a comedian coming to campus? A lot of college events are fun and more importantly free! Don’t miss out on your chance to attend some of them, or better yet, volunteer to work the event. This brings me to my next tip.

Volunteer

If you volunteered at a nursing home every week or helped clean up your neighborhood while you were in high school, that’s great! If you didn’t do a whole lot of volunteering, don’t fret. You still have a chance to get involved with different volunteering organizations. Penn State has an organization that helps raise money for kids with pediatric cancer called THON. Your campus might have a similar organization so ask around to find out. If you’re not into fundraising, see if your campus is affiliated with Habitat For Humanity or any other non-profit organization. If they are, this is your opportunity to get involved with some of them. Just like clubs, volunteering is a great way to network and to become a part of your campus.

Talk to People

Freshmen Orientation is the perfect time to make connections. Your orientation leaders are there to help you, and the great thing about that is – they’re sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’ve been where you are and know the ins and outs of college and how to get involved. Ask them questions about their college experience and how they went about making the campus their home away from home.

These are just a few tips to get you started on getting involved on your college campus. Trust me, once you find your place at your university, navigating the collegiate world will get easier and, before you know it, you’ll no longer feel like the new kid.

Photo courtesy of Eric E Johnson

CultureEducationSkillsTravel

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind in our nation’s capital. As I shared last week, I was honored to receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal yesterday. From the dinner to the actual Medal Ceremony, it has been awesome getting to see more of D.C., as well as meeting the other amazing medal recipients. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ve seen a behind-the-scenes look at what I experienced. I thought I’d share some more details about the pictures here in a diary format. Let’s begin!

Tuesday, June 17

Penn Station

 7:00am – Rise and shine! The train for D.C. left bright and early, and the journey officially kicks off with a delicious breakfast sandwich, apple juice, and a full itinerary for the next couple of days.

Train view

8:00am – The view from the train is perfect for zoning out and seeing America zip by. Love views like this when I want to focus on absolutely nothing.

Working on the Train

 9:00am – Enough zoning out. It’s time to get some work done! With a full to-do list and more posts to write, the train is the best time to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s like being at the airport – there are many ways to stay productive.

National Geographic Society

 2:00pm – No time to waste now that I’m here in D.C.! Made a super cool stop at National Geographic HQ for an awesome upcoming Professional Spotlight. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 18

Constituent Coffee Russell Senate Office Bldg

8:00am – Another early D.C. morning! I trek to the Capitol to meet for a Constituent Coffee with Washington’s Senator Patty Murray. It was a pleasure meeting her and other Washingtonians.

Gold Dinner 2014

 8:00pm – The first official Congressional Award event: the Gold Medal Dinner. I took Catherine, who has earned her Silver Medal, and we met really inspiring youth from around the country. We also heard from some pretty incredible speakers, including Kevin Liles, the Honorable Ron Kind, and Chris Jordan.

Lauren holding CA medalist book

 9:00pm – Here I am holding The Congressional Award Medalist book with other medalists’ stories and speaker information. The energy of the room was contagious!

Thursday, June 19

Carpet from Ceremony at Capitol Cannon Caucus House

 9:00am – The time has come for the Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony! This carpet design caught my eye, and I couldn’t not snap a quick picture before going through security. I felt so official just standing on this carpet.

Offices in Cannon House

 11:45am – Walking through the halls of the Cannon Caucus House. Everything is so…impressive.

Catherine and Lauren by reflection pool

 12:05pm – Catherine and I standing in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Can you spot the Washington Monument? Can’t wait to be here again next year when she earns her Gold Medal!

Lincoln

 3:30pm – I have the afternoon off! I walk to the Lincoln Memorial, and as usual, am in awe of its impressive size and beauty.

This week has been amazing, to say the least. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me, and I hope you enjoyed the sneak peeks!

CultureEducation

When we come across programs that make us excited about learning, we can’t wait to share and tell people all about it. One program in particular that we adore is General Assembly, a global educational institution that empowers individuals to learn topics such as technology, design, and business. You can take classes, workshops, courses, or immersive programs that last 8-12 weeks. The opportunities are seriously endless.

Last week, I took a class about eCommerce at General Assembly, and just in that hour and a half, I felt like I had a good grip on the basics. The class sizes are small, the instructors are accessible after class or by email for additional questions, and classrooms are clean and spacious. Oh, and there’s free Wifi!

I can’t wait to take more classes at General Assembly. I learned a lot from my first class, and if you plan on taking a course at General Assembly or another program, here’s what you should know!

1. Don’t forget your ticket. If you register for a class online, you will receive an online, printable ticket. Print this out right away and remember to bring it with you to class. This will make checking-in much smoother.

2. Bring a notebook or a laptop. You will be taking a lot of notes. Don’t rely on just your mind to remember everything the instructor says.

3. Do initial research. Even if you are taking a class because you do not know the first thing about the topic, it never hurts to do some initial research before the course. This way, in case the teacher uses terms and doesn’t go over them in class, you will have an idea of what he or she is talking about. Having done some initial reading also allows you to focus on the details that is being presented rather than trying to catch up with the basics.

4. Come prepared with questions. The instructor may encourage questions throughout the class or after he or she has finished the lesson. Either way, have a couple of questions prepared so you get the most out of your course. Remember, there are no stupid questions!

5. Arrive 15 minutes early. You don’t want to be the person stumbling into the class five minutes late and scrambling to find a seat. Plan on arriving 15 minutes early so you can find a good seat, set up your laptop and get out your pens, and review your questions.

6. Sit near the front. Sitting near the front of the class will help you see the presentation slides better, as well as give you a better chance of having your questions answered. You don’t want to be peering over people’s heads just to see what the slide says. Arriving 15 minutes early will help guarantee you the best seat in the house.

7. Introduce yourself. If you are sitting next to someone, say hi. If you enjoyed the class a lot, approach the instructor afterwards to say so. It never hurts to introduce yourself – good things might come out of it.

8. Thank you email. If the instructor offers his or her email address at the end of the presentation, jot it down and make sure to send a thank you email. Thank the instructor for his or her time, what you most enjoyed about the class, and if you have any additional questions, now is the time to ask them.

Have you ever taken a class at General Assembly/a similar program?