The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.
Today’s Q&A feature is Christina Romelus, Vice Mayor of the City of Boynton Beach, Florida. She was elected to the Boynton Beach city commission on March 15, 2016. In her first year of service, Christina was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners to the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council to serve the residents of Palm Beach County. Christina is also an Adjunct Instructor for Anatomy and Physiology at Palm Beach State College. Prior to this position, Christina served her community as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Romelus attended South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach, where she obtained her LPN certification. She is a proud alumnus of the University of Miami and holds a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Barry University. An active humanitarian, Christina has done missionary work in Haiti for earthquake and hurricane relief efforts and in the Dominican Republic in the bateyes (sugar mill settlements). She has also volunteered as a nurse for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Summer Camp. Christina Romelus is an inspiration to the youth in Boynton and Florida who want to get involved in government and public service. We caught up with Christina to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to the next generation of leaders.
Why did you choose this career path?
To be honest, I did not choose this career path, it chose me. I was seeking a career in medicine but would work on small local campaigns because I knew how important it was to be involved. My first ballot that I ever cast when I turned 18 was to elect the first black president of the United States. Therefore, I felt empowered that my vote mattered and wanted to give others that same satisfaction of changing their community. I had been working as a community activist encouraging people to vote and be involved when I was asked to run. I rejected the request at first, never seeking the spotlight but just wanting to be involved. Over time though, the requests continued and so I ran. The people chose me and felt I was the right person to fight for their interests.
Who inspired you to get involved?
My mentors who were already in office had a lot to do with my involvement and ultimate entrance into politics. They were in their 30s and deeply involved in public service and so the possibility of me doing this at such a young age become more real. Most people are not interested in politics until they are well into their 40s and 50s and so this is why I believe there is such a disparity of young people represented in office. Ultimately, this causes a lack of input into the policies that will so deeply affect the upcoming generations. This needs to be corrected.
How do you define a leader?
I would define a leader as someone who has a definite plan for the future, but also always makes sure to listen to and incorporate others’ ideas into that vision. In my line of work in particular, being a leader also involves knowing the difference between building power vs. extracting effort. When you build power in a staff member, community member, or volunteer, you are making them a central part of the movement and giving them the tools to succeed. When you’re extracting effort, you’re using people without making them feel like a productive and important member of the team, and that’s not what leaders do.
What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?
In my opinion, I believe the best way to effectively engage the next generation is to actively spend time with them and have them get to know you as a person. The realization that there is a real human being under the title of Mayor, CEO, Executive Director, etc will help them realize they can be just like you. I’ve embarked on doing just that by taking advantage of any opportunity to speak to groups of young people to share my story. It’s an opportunity to bring down the walls and really open up about who I am and how my journey translates in their own lives. I covet those speaking engagements because I know that I’m planting many seeds wherever I go with the next generation.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
Find a mentor and stick to them like glue.
How do you get a mentor?
Step 1: Find someone you like and want to be like when you grow up.
Step 2: Ask them (in person), “Can you be my mentor?”
Step 3: Constantly keep in touch with this person. No matter where life takes you.
Step 4: Add to your team of mentors over time. Have a person for all areas of your life: spiritual, business, education, family, etc.
Step 5: Become a mentor yourself and perpetuate the cycle.