Exelon invests not only in community organizations, but also the people in our communities.
A year ago, the Exelon Foundation, as a Founding Donor,
contributed $1 million
to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The newly constructed museum embodies one of our most important principles: supporting and educating the communities we serve about diverse perspectives, so we coordinated a trip to Washington for some of the students in our Stay in School (SIS) program — our initiative with United Way of Metropolitan Chicago now in its 12th year — to visit the museum this summer.
Students submitted essays about what they’d gain from touring the museum from a cultural and historical standpoint. Exelon selected Lauren Moy’s submission (which you can read at the end of this article) because she showed such a deep interest to learn from the experience.
We caught up with Lauren, a Whitney Young High School graduate and current University of Illinois student, about her trip, her key takeaways and how much she’s grown during her four years with the SIS initiative.
Lauren became passionate about diverse perspectives thanks to SIS.
Until her senior year in high school, Lauren says she didn’t fully appreciate her Asian American heritage.
“Stay in School made me become more avid about the opinions of Asian Americans and our struggles and how we grow,” she says.
Talking about race and being a minority in society was encouraged in SIS, and Lauren embraced this as a leader at her school’s Asian American club. They performed dances from several Asian countries and fashioned artistic paper boats out of students’ immigration papers.
A yearning to learn about others’ perspectives came when she wrote her essay for the museum trip. Researching the museum sparked an interest in welcoming others’ perspectives; she now realizes the significance of African American stories.
During the museum visit, Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director, addressed Lauren’s group and discussed the impacts of the museum’s exhibits on the past and present.
"Even though it’s not my history, it’s important to gain something when you visit,” she says. “This is the history that shapes history as a whole."
Her visit to the NMAAHC capped off years of mentoring and learning.
Through four years with SIS, Lauren worked with community-outreach teams, built her skills and received mentoring advice. She also interned with United Way, Project: VISION and BUILD, Inc., which had a big impact on her career plans.
Influenced by her father, a retired doctor, Lauren’s always been interested in medicine — and in college, she’s a biology major. But the SIS internships helped her realize that she’d rather work in local agencies and public health rather than in a traditional hospital.
“Yes, I still want a job in the medical field, but my goal is to help the community more,” Lauren said. “Any community that draws me to it is one I was to help. I want to make a lasting impact, no matter how big or small or the amount of people.”
Lauren considers herself lucky for the opportunities she’s had with SIS. Along with the tangible lessons such as resume writing and internships, she also learned from mentors, both in Chicago and at the museum.
“Stay in School is not only a program that prepares you for the future through career lessons, but it also really prepares you as a person and learning your strengths and weaknesses. I grew as a professional person, and also as a person.”
Check out Lauren’s winning essay in full:
When we think of the United States of America, we think about the rich and deep history that has allowed for greater change in society today. We are a nation that accepts and blends all different cultures together. It is what makes us unique. It is what makes us different. And, it is what makes us united.
Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture allows for an opportunity for me to experience and explore the meaning of engaging with a culture that helped shape America into a country of color. “The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American.” This quote, said by Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of NMAAHC, reflects the idea that to be an American means to see through the perspective of the life of all races in this country and for this instance, African Americans. Society has created these imaginary boundaries that society separates all races from each other.
To have an opportunity to visit the NMAAHC means to overcome that barrier and create relationships built on understanding and awareness of our differences, yet also having recognition that those differences make us unified as a nation of color. I believe that visiting the museum can open up a new horizon for me to learn more of the history that empowers my peers in Stay in School and the communities and struggles they had to overcome to be where they are today.