A letter from Alekz Wray to the OWN family: I’ve been with OWN for just shy of three years. Wow. It feels like I just walked into that old, quirky, colorful, and charming OWN office back in the Pioneer Building last week. How things have changed…how I have changed.
I remember my first week in the office. Alum Derrick Simons was my recruiting buddy and we bused all over the city together to visit schools and tell potential students about OWN. He was so excited to talk about his study abroad opportunity to China, and how he’d grown and what he loved about that experience – hearing him speak really sold me on the fact that I had made a good choice to work for this organization and that I’d be doing something meaningful and impactful for young folks.
The biggest lesson I learned while working at OWN, and while it may sound cliche, is the importance of being yourself and standing in integrity. I’m a goofball, geek, nerd, weirdo, cheesy-joke-teller, super serious, structured, personable, outgoing, wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeves type of person and if I had been anything other than that, I wouldn’t have made the impact on folks that I did because people can see through any masks we try and put up. I believe the fact that I was willing and committed to being myself in all of my quirkiness made the youth around me feel comfortable to do the same.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I’d even argue that the first and biggest component to being a leader is to be comfortable in and love your own skin because how can we expect to help build up others when our own foundation of self is shaky?
Here’s what’s next for me and my family, post-OWN. Starting this summer, I will be pursuing my Masters in Teaching through the University of Portland’s Open School Teaching Residency. It’s a program that is in alignment with my commitment to social justice, equity and serving young people. OWN has had a huge impact on me and has really solidified the importance of international education in my mind and I look forward to bringing that into my future classrooms.
To every intern/co-worker/supervisor I’ve had the honor of working with, thanks for putting up with me. To every student I’ve served over the past three years, thanks for giving me the best education I’ve ever had – seriously. I’ll carry y’all with me to the next step on my journey and beyond. Much love.
Salaam & Solidarity,