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From the eyes of an alumni: the personal and professional impact of Emerging Leaders

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By: Saad Sep 30, 2014

Iman Khalil, an Emerging Leaders Alumni, is currently interning at the Tampa City Council and pursuing her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health Practice at the University of South Florida.

Iman Khalil, an Emerging Leaders Alumni, is currently interning at the Tampa City Council and pursuing her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health Practice at the University of South Florida.

“What is important is not what you hear said, it’s what you observe.”
                                                                              – Michael Connelly

When we think of leadership and politics, we often think of loud-mouth, obnoxious politicians in pressed suits yelling and shaking their fists in regards to policies and legislation. For many, this image is very unsettling and the idea of being involved in the political process is unattractive. It definitely was for me.


I was adamantly convinced that I could be a good leader without being involved in the political scene. I felt that the craziness of politics would only hold me back in the public health endeavors I was pursing. My mentor approached me with an opportunity to grow in my leadership and political skills and initially, I was not interested. I felt like I would be exposing myself to experiences that were unnecessary to my growth. After a long conversation with my mentor I had decided I would go into Emerge USA’s Emerging Leaders program with an open mind and just observe. I had no obligation to change my mind or become a politician. I saw it as an opportunity to learn about the political system so that I could manipulate it for the greater good of public health. I was very skeptical in the beginning but what I left with was life changing.

The first retreat was in Miami. This retreat focused on what it means to be a leader and how to effectively lead. Learning about how to speak in public and how to effectively get your point across, how to work cohesively with a group to achieve a goal, and the influential people that gave me advice that has been essential in my growth were only a few things I had gained in the three days I was there. This retreat had the most impact on me because, not only did it open my eyes to the dynamics of leadership, but I made long lasting friendships that have influenced and changed the way I view leadership. My perspective has opened up tremendously and I have taken this and applied it to other facets of my life.

The Tampa retreat was more politically educational and acted as a precursor to what was to come in the Tallahassee retreat. Initially, I was not looking forward to this retreat because, again, I wanted nothing to do with politics.


As the retreat progressed, I had a profound epiphany. I realized that the most impactful politics happens locally, at the grassroots level. These are concerned citizens that not only want and demand change, but they are DOING something about it. I realized that what I do as an aspiring public health professional starts at the grassroots level. I not only listened to what the speakers had to say but I observed what they did. I put their methods to practice throughout the Emerging Leaders program. This was proof to me that politics is broad and that I could use it to my advantage. I could use it to ignite change in my community.

The Tallahassee retreat was my first real taste of Florida politics. Going into this retreat, I knew I was going to experience my original version of politics. While I did see men and women in pressed suits walking corridors of government buildings and witnessed closed minded politicians speak ignorantly on certain legislation, I realized something important. We collectively elected (either through vote or by not voting) these political leaders. How can we sit and complain about legislation and policy if we do not take responsibility for our role in electing those who make these policies?

My observations led me to realize that I have to be more involved. I have to put myself out there and be a voice for change. If not, I had no right to complain.


All in all, the Emerging Leaders program helped me to grow exponentially. I have learned to be a better leader, a better example. When I entered the program, I was a senior at the University of South Florida studying public health. I am now in the process of receiving my Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health Practice at USF. I am also a Legislative Aide Intern for the Tampa City Council and participate in community engagement, organization, and revitalization programs. I would not have chosen this path without the life changing experience of the Emerging Leaders program.

I now want to take what I learn in local politics and apply it on a global scale. I have realized that anyone with the drive and passion for change can get involved. It takes an open mind and eye, an observer, a listener. Change is induced through active participation, not merely through its suggestion. Emerging Leaders not only instilled this in me but gave me the tools to effectively implement the skills that I have learned.

Thank you Emerge USA!

– Iman Khalil, #EL3


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