U.S. diplomat advises Scottsdale students to prepare their story

Ken Chavez draws a crowd at Saguaro High School after one of his presentations. (submitted photo)

U.S. diplomat Ken Chavez shared with 750 Scottsdale high school students his suggestions and experiences as a mid-career Consul Officer for the U.S. State Department.

In his first few years with the state department, he has been assigned to and lived in Beijing, Mexico, Washington D.C., and Nicaragua.

His most exhilarating experience was in Nicaragua where he climbed an active volcano and slid down its still warm ashes on a board with a plastic sheet so it would go faster. This story got the attention of the students.

Their reaction: “that is really cool.”

From then on he had credibility.

He encouraged the students to have a story of their own. They will need to tell their personal story when they apply for a scholarship, seek an internship, submit their applications for post high school education, or interview for their part time or full time job.

Their story needs to grab the attention of the reader or listener. It must set them apart from all the others who are also applying.

Ken Chavez at Chaparral High School. (submitted photo)

To develop a personal story, he encouraged the students to begin now to generate their story and not wait until later when it is time to tell it.

That story should have at least three elements.

Leadership and involvement is very important. Students need to join a club, volunteer for community service, and/or participate in extracurricular activities.

Doing this illustrates the student has initiative and ability to work with others.

Next, the students should undertake international travel. Colleges, universities and employers are looking for students with a broader outlook on life and greater cultural awareness than do others. While they can study abroad during college, the students who have done it in high school are a step ahead of others and have shown their greater maturity and initiative.

Finally, students need a second language.

Some will learn that they have a natural ability to learn languages and should go on to become fluent in a third or fourth language. In Arizona a second language is necessary since we are a border state.   But most students will need to be able to handle a second language in order to be qualified for the best opportunities.

Mr. Chavez is the U.S. State Department Diplomat in Resident for Arizona and New Mexico. His assignment is to acquaint and encourage students to explore opportunities with the state department.

He gave them information on internships, scholarships and careers with the U.S. Foreign Service.  See: https://careers.state.gov/

Mr. Chavez told the students he had not learned of the opportunities to serve his country, travel and live overseas, and be paid to learn languages until after his first job after college. It was only by chance that he learned of these opportunities with the state department.

He continuously encouraged students to begin seeking out opportunities to compose their own stories and not delay until it is too late to generate a great personal story.

By the way, he admits his sliding down an active volcano is nothing he would do again and discouraged students from trying it themselves.

The visit to the Scottsdale high schools was under the auspices of the Junior Board of Scottsdale Sister Cities. Members of the Junior Board are high school student leaders with a commitment to increasing the global awareness of fellow students.

Many have traveled to Scottsdale’s sister cities as youth ambassadors for their schools, city and state.

For more information on the Junior Board, go to: https://www.facebook.com/Students-of-Scottsdale-Sister-Cities-157594530956911/.

Editor's Note: This article was submitted by Max Rumbaugh, president of the Rotary Club of Scottsdale.

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