Samantha Garfield (Data Quality Campaign)

Sam Garfield Data Conference

Above is a photo from the National Center for Education Statistics STATS-DC Data Conference I’ve been attending this week. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, John B. King, Jr., gave the keynote speech addressing the nation’s leaders in education data. To be included in such a prestigious group of people was quite exciting, and made me take a step back and reflect on my surroundings. While I was by and far the youngest (and least accomplished) person in the room, I was in the company of powerful policy trailblazers.

From making my first grocery list to scheduling my first medical procedure without the help of my parents, I’ve really been forced to mature over the course of the past month. While I can’t attribute all of this to D.C., this vibrant city with young professionals left and right has truly helped me come into my own.

I often joke with my friends who’ve recently graduated that they’re becoming “real people,” full-fledged adults that are no longer in their carefree college days. Helping recent Vandy graduates move into their new apartments in Washington D.C. gave me the terrifying realization that some of my friends have already become “real people.” During my time here, I’ve had opportunities to sit down with some of the nation’s leaders on policy areas ranging from the environment to patent policy. The fact that these figures are willing to have lunch with me and take me seriously has shown me that I’m also becoming a “real person.”

Being in a room at STATS-DC with such accomplished education leaders felt similar to being in a city with the nation’s policy leaders; humbling and empowering. I’m thoroughly grateful I’ve had the opportunity to live in D.C. this summer. While I’m excited to return to Nashville in August, I’m even more excited to return to D.C. as a “real person” after graduation!

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