Kaitlin Vadla and Virginia Moore with Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus at Dubai Leadership Forum.
Kaitlin Vadla has a history of community and academic achievement that includes 1st Place in the 2002 Caring for the Kenai contest, 2004 Alaska Jr. Miss, and was selected for a Soldotna Rotary and other scholarships as a Soldotna High School student. This spring Vadla will graduate from Gonzaga University as an international relations major and leave behind a legacy for other students in the Comprehensive Leadership Program to be able to attend international conferences such as she did recently in Dubai.
“Another Alaskan student, Virginia Moore of Juneau and I went to Dubai to attend an international business leadership forum, as it turned out we were the only students among the world leaders at the conference. We were able to hear, meet, and be inspired by such dignitaries as Kofi Annan, Steven Forbes, Sir Richard Branson, and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. We learned so much from the speakers, but even more importantly, we were able to see the world from a totally new angle, gain a different cultural perspective, and get a sense of what we are capable of as students,” Vadla told the Soldotna Rotary Club. “It’s truly fantastic to see one of our Rotary scholars go on to model our motto of Service Above Self, this is what Rotary and our club is all about,” said Soldotna Rotary president Kelly Keating.
It was no easy task for the students to get to the leadership conference and the costs were overwhelming, “Looking back at our journey of getting to the conference, I am proud of our perseverance, resilience, and hard work. We initially chose the Dubai conference over other conferences because of the high-powered speakers and because it provided the best example of practical leadership learning in a non-academic setting. However, after several months of fundraising and logistics coordinating, though we had received generous support from our university and the Soldotna Rotary club, we had not received enough support from the conference itself to justify spending over $10,000 on conference fees alone,” said Vadla.
Then with only two weeks before the conference Vadla received a call from the conference coordinator who said she had been negotiating with the board and was happy to inform her that they had agreed to waive nearly all of the conference fees. After a string of sleepless nights to prepare for their journey Vadla said, “Upon arriving in Dubai, we expected to be largely ignored, due to our own lack of experience and power, but the people were extremely kind and generous. We were actually interviewed by Arab TV news media. The contacts we made are absolutely incredible; we never could have anticipated the experience.”
Upon returning Vadla and Moore have become passionate about making the conference experience sustainable for future students, “It may be the hardest but we believe it’s the most important part of our experience,” she said. The duo have already begun planning how to campaign for donors and spread the word about their experiences so that each year students will be able to apply for a similar conference, “This opportunity would promote international leadership education not only by sending students to an international leadership conference, but also by providing avenues through which those students could share what they learned upon their return through campus wide and community forums taking us a step closer to world peace through understanding one student at a time,” she explained. According to Vadla it will cost $8,000 annually to fund her program, which would cover conference, travel, and accommodation fees for the two delegates. For more information, contact Vadla at (509) 981-7085 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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