On the Road High School Youth Delivers Absolutely Inspiring Keynote Speech at 5th Anniversary Gala

balloons that read "#OTRC 5" at the gala

Recently, we had the honor of hosting our 5th Anniversary “Playing it Forward” Gala. It was a night to reflect on our mission and the ways we’ve been able to empower our youth, and a special opportunity to recognize all of the amazing individuals and businesses who have supported us along the way.

The night had everything you could possibly want in a Gala: Minute-to-Win-It Games, Awards, a Cha-Cha Slide Raffle, tons of food, drink and dancing, and most importantly, an opportunity to hear from one of our youth, Genesis, who delivered an absolutely inspiring Keynote Speech that was followed by a standing ovation!

Genesis delivers the keynote speech at the On the Road 5th anniversary gala

Genesis has been with us since 7th grade and she’s now a rising senior at Harrisonburg High School, where she’s taking AP classes and thinking about her next steps after high school.

She says that On the Road has helped her tremendously over the years, both in figuring out what she wants to do after high school and in helping her plan for the next steps she needs to take to accomplish her professional goals.

There’s so much we could say about Genesis and the growth we’ve seen in her over the years, but we wanted you to hear from her.

Below, you can read her inspiring Keynote Speech and learn more about her amazing story.

But first, we wanted to say thank you again to everyone who made our 5th Anniversary Gala so special, and for all of your support over the years!

Our work helping students like Genesis would not be possible without your continued support. We are thankful for each and every one of you who has helped us provide educational opportunities and hand-on career experiences to our youth!

As we look ahead, we’re motivated to continue building a world where all youth are on the road to realizing their promise and we look forward to seeing our impact expand as we continue to empower our next generation of leaders.

5th Anniversary Keynote Speech

Genesis talks with guests at the On the Road 5th Anniversary Gala

“Hello, my name is Genesis. As some may know, I am in a program called On The Road Collaborative. I have been with this amazing after-school program since I was in 7th grade. I am now a junior in high school and despite some challenges, On The Road has been one of the things that I’ve held on to.

I came to the United States when I was about 3. A few years later, I became a citizen along with my mom. I grew up here, but English is my second language and considering I was horrendous at grammar for a good portion of my life, it’s safe to say learning has not been easy. I was bullied in school for struggling with reading. When I got to 7th grade I was still in basic level English, but then a friend of mine told me about On The Road and how it was helping her with homework and getting good grades. Even though I had never before stayed after school for any academic program, I decided to give this one a try. Several weeks later I was in advanced English. I stayed in advanced, and then went on to Honors–and now I’m in Advanced Placement classes.

Genesis delivers the keynote speech at the On the Road 5th anniversary gala

On The Road Collaborative helped me figure out what kind of learner I am … I ended up being a visual and kinesthetic learner. The way that I was studying was not the best way for me. This program helped me understand that through one-on-one tutoring, or by even just listening to me ramble about my day. They helped me figure out different ways of studying that ended up helping me become successful.

Throughout the years my ideas and dreams have changed. At first I wanted to be an interior designer, then I wanted to be a lawyer, after that it was astronomer, now I want to be an anesthesiologist. As I’m getting closer to college and tuition payments my parents are praying that I stop there. Thanks to On The Road I have also expanded my knowledge on colleges in and out of Virginia. They have adapted to the constant mind change as I grew up. 

Throughout my time wanting to be a lawyer I started advocating for injustices within communities. I have On The Road Collaborative to thank for my first experience advocating. In 9th grade, I went to DC to advocate for after-school programs. I met amazing people and made new connections. I even got to present a speech for Senator Kaine. From there I branched out and got offered an opportunity to go to DC for the ACLU Advocacy Institute through Valley Scholars. I grew to have more confidence and independence as an individual. I could finally put my debate and communication skills into play for something I know can potentially change the lives of others. Once there, 900 kids got together and advocated against family separation. Even though I now want to be a doctor, advocating with my best friend, who does want to be a lawyer, is something I truly enjoy.

I feel as though I’ve grown a lot through On The Road. I’ve made connections with people who I never thought I would connect so well with. I’ve also come to an understanding that I don’t need to stick to one idea or career throughout my entire life. I honestly don’t know where I’ll end up, but one thing I know for sure is that wherever this road is leading me, I’m on the road to success.”

Genesis receives a standing ovation
Genesis receives a standing ovation