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Leadership Long Beach

Finding My Strength

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

By Anna Topolewski, Director | Interim Housing, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless)

Anna TopolewskiMay 21st, 2013 – Almost 5 years ago a colleague suggested that I consider participating in Leadership Long Beach. I gave it some thought but my job was demanding and I decided I just couldn’t find the time. Over the next few years things changed, I was living and working in Long Beach and suddenly realized that Long Beach was my home. I’d committed to living in Long Beach and it seemed the time was right to commit to Leadership Long Beach. I applied, went to the interview, and was accepted into the class of 2013.

As it turns out, that was the easy part. The real work began on the first class day and snowballed into a herculean challenge when we got to the mountain. At this point of the story, I should probably explain that for most of my life the words cautious and shy would accurately describe me. Introducing myself to a large group of new people makes my palms sweat and my heart race and public speaking can send me into a coma-like state. So I’m still not sure how I found myself at a Leadership Long Beach retreat, standing on a platform, ready to launch myself, quite literally, into the arms of my classmates. It was terrifying. Many of the alumni told me that the mountain changed their life. I’ll be honest, I really just wanted to SURVIVE the mountain. I was a little skeptical that it would be life changing. As it turns out, joining Leadership Long Beach was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it did change my life. I’ve always thought that I was a strong, independent woman and now I know that to be true.

Over the last few months I’ve learned the ins and outs of Long Beach. We’ve discussed education, health, sustainability, human services, public safety, government and the arts. I was principal for a day and did a police ride along. My project team is putting together Robo Bowl, a competition for robotics students in LBUSD middle schools. I even know the names of the islands off Bluff Park and where to find the best pickled egg in Long Beach. Most importantly, I met 22 new people who share my commitment to Long Beach, many of whom I hope will continue to be a part of my life in the years to come.

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(Founded in 1989, Leadership Long Beach offers principled leadership programs by educating and engaging adult and youth leaders on issues important to the city’s future and sustainability.

For more information, check us out at www.leadershiplb.org or www.facebook.com/leadershiplongbeach.)