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A Junior at Newbury Park High School, Emily Nagamoto is no stranger to rolling up her sleeves and answering the call of service. With a heart for environmental science, math, and public policy, Emily has tutored and volunteered with her school and countless organizations. Some of her involvement has been with K9s for Warriors, Rotary International, Children's Hunger Fund (and the Poverty Encounter), the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, and several United Nations organizations that empower women around the world. In April, Emily is running a half marathon to raise $1,000 for Girl Up, an organization that gives girls resources and a platform for social change. In her spare time, Emily enjoys cooking, hiking, playing tennis, and taking photographs for her school’s newspaper.
Emily’s journey with the Reagan Foundation began in fifth grade when she played the role of President Reagan during a field trip to the Discovery Center. It was not long after that she came back to the library and enrolled in the Student Leadership Program, where she developed and implemented a leadership action plan to enact change in her community. Emily’s passion to be a leader and mentor grew exponentially every year. Her volunteer service at the Reagan Foundation includes the 2017 Reagan Leadership Summit and the 2018 Reagan National Defense Forum, as well as serving as an SLP ambassador and on the Student Advisory Committee for the 2018 Summit (where seven delivered one of the opening addresses). Above all, Emily’s enthusiasm for charity, community, and service drive what she does and who she is today.
What does leadership mean to you and what are you doing to grow as a leader?
Leadership to me means different things in different situations, from leading a group, to doing the right thing even though it is hard and no one else may appreciate it. At its core, leadership is about helping others, not any title or fancy position, and it is a person's characteristics that make them a leader, like humility, empathy, passion, compassion, reliability, confidence, and more. As you grow as a person, you grow as a leader, and I just try to throw myself in new situations to learn new things and grow.
How do you approach challenges?
For me, the most important thing is being positive and making a plan. I like to assess what I have, who can help me, what I can do, etc. Challenges inspire me to work harder to accomplish my goals, but only when I remain optimistic about them.
What would you say to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
First, I would tell them that they don't have to follow me; if they work hard and follow their own passions, then they will be way more successful and happy than trying to stay in my footsteps, because everyone's path is different and special. Second I would tell them to stop worrying what others think and to stop comparing themselves to other people. This is a problem that I often struggle with, but we just have to remember that everyone is different and this is a good thing. Third, find what you are passionate about or interested in, even if it is just an inkling of interest, because you should be enjoying what you are doing; that's what can make life fun and meaningful.
What is something you want to improve on or help guide someone else to improve on?
In general, I think there is always room for improvement, and as a perfectionist I am always striving to get better and improve. Specifically, right now I am working on my time management skills, because I have discovered that those can never be good enough. I think we can all work on paying attention too. I'm not just talking about in class or in meetings, but in everyday life. All too often we are listening without paying attention and we aren't fully grasping what is being said. No relationship can be sustained or goal achieved this way. Remaining present in the moment, soaking it all in, and actually paying attention is something we can all work on, and I think this will lead to better leadership skills, more fruitful experiences, and simply more connections as well.
What are you passionate about?
I am very passionate about the environment. I believe that as inhabitants of the planet, we have no right to abuse it or take advantage of it, but that we must take care of it and do our part to keep it beautiful. Something else I am very passionate about is volunteering, because I think that we are all humans and everyone deserves to live a good life, so if you have the ability to help others, you should. Lastly, I love to learn new things, especially in math.