The Mount Vernon experience
A Fallon resident who will be a junior at Washington State University this fall was one of 16 students nationwide selected as a Mount Vernon Leadership fellow.
The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program is a competitive, five-week opportunity for incoming college juniors. It takes place outside Washington, D.C. at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.
“I would say it was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Garrett Kalt, who grew up in Fallon before heading to college and then the famous American landmark this summer.
“I’m forever grateful for it,” he said about the scholarship.
The residential program that recently concluded is fully funded for students studying diverse disciplines — from law to neuroscience — and desiring to make a difference. They immerse themselves in this professional and personal leadership development program inspired by Washington as well as today’s foremost leaders.
Kalt and his peers split their time between Mount Vernon and the nation’s capital. They gained a dynamic education, interacting with corporate, government and military leaders. They also focused on how to help change the world though self-reflection, experiential activities and a community service-focused capstone project.
For the first week, the fellows stayed on the estate at Mount Vernon.
“It was a chance for all the fellows to really get to know each other,” Kalt said.
After that first week, they stayed in the centrally located Old Town Alexandria, Va., Monday through Wednesday. The group would return to Mount Vernon for classes and speakers, then Thursday and Friday do activities in the D.C. area. On the weekends, Kalt said, the fellows would enjoy going to D.C. to just sightsee as friends.
Kalt had visited the capital once before as a member of the U.S. Senate Youth Program.
“I was really excited to go back to D.C.,” he said, “with more of a mature perspective about what our country is, and really have a greater sense of background.”
It was Kalt’s first time at Mount Vernon, though, and he said it was incredible. The impeccably maintained, 18th century Mount Vernon plantation is known for its extremely lush and expansive grounds, as well as its immersive programs and first-rate attractions including the Washington Library.
Kalt heard about the scholarship through a friend who obtained the opportunity last year, the program’s inaugural year.
“She had a really good time,” Kalt said, “and thought this program would be a great fit for me and wanted me to apply for it. I didn’t think I would get it, but I just put my best foot forward.”
Program candidates apply by submitting a written application, their resume and two letters of recommendation, followed by an interview for those students who make the first cut.
“I would encourage every junior to apply for this program that’s really unique,” Kalt added. “It’s not something limited to particular majors. Leadership is the foundation of the program, and you work on it because you believe in it. The cause you choose is what you hope to get out of it.”
Kalt’s chosen cause for his capstone project focused on reducing sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide.
“I came in with a big idea,” he elaborated, “and hoped to really eradicate this issue nationwide. But I realized through the program you have to start at home base.”
He was paired with mentor Suzette Walden Cole, a risk management consultant and professional speaker from Colorado.
“She’s done a lot of great things for sexual assault advocacy,” he said. “She was a great resource to be able to bounce ideas off of.”
Kalt is part of the Honors College at WSU and aims to graduate with a double major in strategic communication and political science, with a minor in economics. His academic activities include being an Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU) senator, the vice president of public relations for the Student Alumni Ambassadors, a resident advisor, and a campus tour guide.
Kalt said he hopes to become a communicator in the realm of politics.
“I’d like to help politicians with their campaigns and be a chief-of-staff or communication director,” he said.
He said law school might be in his future plans in a couple years after his undergraduate work is complete.
“I’d really like to acknowledge and thank the program for this great experience,” Kalt said, “just for giving me this opportunity and providing me all this great education, and connections.”
The 2014 Churchill County High School graduate heads back to school next week in Pullman, Wash.
For more information about the scholarship program, visit http://www.MountVernon.org/library/fellowships/mount-vernon-fellows.