Graduating PAFs Look Back, with Laughs, Service, and Friendship on their Growth and #OnlyatGW Legacy

May 31, 2017
Graduating PAFs Marcus, Zinhle, Alec, Angela, Max, and Katie reflect on their experience with each other as graduate students, GW students, and PAFs.
Our Laughs
Being a PAF is serious work. That is why times where we could literally LOL became the moments that strengthened us as a cohort. After our first few days of PAF training, we were exhausted and ready to relax. At retreat, we bonded over perfectly delivered lines from the one and only cinematic masterpiece, White Chicks; attempted to use body language in questionably appropriate charades sessions; and served the Advising Team 'baby food puree lovingly placed atop a bed of microgreens' during the Chopped competition. When retreat rolled around in our second year, we laughed over karaoke sessions that went a little too far, line dancing performances, and camp games that revealed more about each other than anyone cared to know. In those moments we found our places in the 'PAFamily'. These wackier, less curated moments of PAF life created the foundation from which we could support one another to raise high.
Our #OnlyatGW Moments
We have collected quite a few #OnlyatGW moments as PAFs. These moments highlight some of the unique experiences we have had over the past two years, and we hope that they, along with numerous others, reflect our commitment to serving the GW community through our placements and passions.
Marcus discussed childhood obesity as a panelist at the 2015 Rodham Institute Summit alongside Chelsea Clinton. Zinhle was awarded the Knapp Fellowship to produce her documentary The Minority Vote. Alec contributed to a book chapter entitled “A Strategy of Cyber Deterrence” alongside the director of GW’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, Frank Cilluffo and former Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff. Angela was the 2017 student commencement speaker and spoke delivered her speech in front of 25,000 people on the National Mall. Max helped produce GW’s 2015 holiday video and received an Emmy as a producer. Katie worked to establish the GW Cross Disciplinary Collaboration Initiative.
Our Legacy
We are all very different people. Each member of our cohort has a unique background, story, struggle, style and taste. When we first met, there was much to learn about our varying communication and working styles. Yet, through PAF -- in weekly meetings, our placements and ambassadorial service in the GW community -- we have learned to further understand what it means to a diverse and inclusive community. 
While there is so much our cohort has contributed to the university: launching the inaugural Campaign for Change Initiative focusing on social justice and community advocacy, combating health disparities -- and discussing it with Chelsea Clinton! --  leading Everyday English workshops for international students, strengthening university ties to key national security advisors and facilitating diversity dialogues and programs across campus and the world (just to name a few!) -- our core legacy remains simple: to listen well, ask more questions, prioritize community over the individual, and welcome diversity in all its forms. We were so incredibly proud of Angela, who delivered our GW 2017 commencement address and summarized our GW and PAF journey best, when she said: 
“Welcome to uncertainty, to challenges, to new friends, differences of opinion, intellectual growth...our lives start when we say welcome.”
As we graduate, we are stepping into an incredibly unique social, political and economic climate. Despite the challenges that lay ahead, we are excited to carry on the legacy of welcome we have learned at the George Washington University, on to our future endeavors. 
Our Service
Serving our community - locally, nationally, and internationally – has remains an integral part of our PAF experience. During our time as PAFs we took every opportunity to serve alongside one another and support each other’s individual service. From participating in Alternative Breaks as Learning Partners in New Orleans and Utah, to serving as a group at Wider Circle, we consistently sought out opportunities to #raisehigh through community service. This search led us to continue our partnerships with the Nashman Center’s Adopt-A- Family initiative, Freshman Day of Service, MLK Day of Service, and Everyday English Workshops for International students, to name a few. We look forward to continuing service efforts in our post-PAF endeavors in addition to giving back to GW whenever and wherever we can.
Our Growth
The past two years have provided us with innumerable opportunities for growth (and yes, reflection). While each of us came into the program with a host of professional and academic experiences, we were able to capitalize on the diversity of our interests as a cohort and the resources made available through the program to develop as leaders in and out of the classroom and office. When I hear people discuss their discomfort with using Google Docs, Doodle, or other online tools for collaboration, I cannot help but think about the expertise all PAFs have gained in this realm. But on a more serious note, I have seen us master our many academic interests and gain the skills (including the ability to have crucial conversations!) to be dynamite innovators, administrators, and humanitarians.
While we certainly experienced some healthy growing pains as cohort, I feel that we are better for it. Individually, we are impressive, but collectively we have pushed one another to become game-changers. I cannot wait to see what we continue to do, and how we continue to grow, in our time as PAF alumni.
Our Friendship
When I think of PAF what I cherish most is the friendships created in the program. Thinking back to our first awkward meeting, posing around the George statue in mid-campus quad, I would have never imagined the important role that each member of my cohort would play in my life. It has been beautiful to see how all of our differences have come together to shape the entire cohort into an inspiring crew characterized by unique personal stories, high achievement, and kind spirit. I am forever grateful for these ever-growing friendships, and I look forward to continuing to cultivate them.
To the rising second year cohort and the incoming cohorts: I am excited for you to continue and start your journeys as PAFs. This journey will be filled with wonderful memories and tokens of friendship - sweet laughs, heartfelt conversations, supportive hugs. I encourage you to make time for these moments as your days get busier. The word “fellowship” is part of the program for a reason!

Zunara Naeem

Zunara is a second year fellow recently completing a Master of Public Administration; she is now pursuing a certificate in Nonprofit Management. This year, her professional placement is with the Dean's Office of Health Sciences in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.