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PLS: A Magic Result

August 9, 2017 5 minute Read
by Jenifer Sarver
Jenifer Sarver, Principal of Sarver Strategies, shares her personal perspective as a participant in the 2017 class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program. Read Sarver’s interesting self-reflection and find out what role sweet potato sliders played in her unforgettable and life-changing experience.

Sweet potato sliders. If I had to sum up my experience in the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, that would be it.

One of our first activities as a group of Scholars was a cooking competition in a professional kitchen in Washington, D.C. We were divided into groups of 10, with people we had just met. We were given a set of ingredients and some basic instructions, then told to create something masterful that would be judged.

Sweet potato sliders. If I had to sum up my experience in the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, that would be it.

Our team sprang into action and each of our natural strengths quickly emerged. Some people are good at chopping. Others are good at grilling. Some see the final vision and can orchestrate all of the steps necessary to get there. Some excel at cleaning up other people’s messes.

The final result was unexpected, collaborative…and delicious.

Like that exercise, PLS is a laboratory to discover what happens when you have a passionate, diverse group of people and you give them the tools, time, and space to problem-solve and come up with collaborative solutions. The result can be magic.

I’ve been interested in public service since I was a child. I’ve gone to rallies, volunteered in soup kitchens, block walked and gone on mission trips. I’ve worked on campaigns and in several branches of the Federal Government. I’ve been active in the nonprofit community, with causes focused on civic engagement, leadership development and mentorship. PLS encouraged me to focus on and evaluate my interest in public service through a better understanding of my values and beliefs. Questions posed by our facilitators sparked this, but often the deeper and more probing queries came from my fellow Scholars who challenged me to see how my experiences are connected to my passions.

PLS is a laboratory to discover what happens when you have a passionate, diverse group of people and you give them the tools, time, and space to problem-solve and come up with collaborative solutions. The result can be magic.

My father came from a broken home, went through the foster system, and landed in prison. He was able to turn his life around and became a minister. When I was a child we visited areas where people in our community lived without running water and electricity. That overwhelmed me with gratitude for the little we did have, and deepened my belief that all lives have value.

I believe when we have communities in which everyone has a voice, a say, and is involved, we are richer and better off for those contributions. That’s why I’m developing a website and series of videos to encourage young people, to work together to make our world a more equitable and just place.

The relationships I built throughout the PLS program have fed my soul. The conversations, debates and discussions around policy, politics and leadership have challenged me to view the world through a much bigger lens. The moments seared in my memory from the PLS program have become the blueprint for how I engage with others and will problem solve in the future.

The conversations, debates and discussions around policy, politics and leadership have challenged me to view the world through a much bigger lens.

All of us have our talents, our passions, our skills and our varied life experiences. Our approaches may differ and sometimes that can create conflict, but often our end goal is the same. If we work together, set aside differences and create time and space for collaboration, we can make a truly lasting impact on our world.

And oh, by the way, our group won first place for a chicken slider topped with bacon, gruyere cheese and avocado sandwiched between sweet potato slices instead of bread. Like I said, magic.

Online applications for the 2018 class of PLS will be accepted through August 31, 2017.