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 Kathryn Edmunds, Journalist and Educator with a passion for investigating hidden treasures to help individuals find freedom and fullness of purpose. As an experienced manager and coach, Kathryn loves to help leverage resources to strategically navigate ones goals to make your dreams come true. Kathryn is the proud founder of The Grit Factor and Women of the World. She is an international speaker and coach, passionate about helping every individual reach their full purpose.

A vivacious leader, Kathryn was recognized as the first Collegiate Servant Leader of the Year Award by the World Leaders Group for her work as Student Body President at Florida Atlantic University. Having traveled across the globe, Kathryn was awarded the Outstanding Global Youth Award by the United Nations for her work in Thailand and Vietnam.

Kathryn currently resides in College Station, Texas where she is pursuing her Master’s in International Relations and Agricultural Leadership Development. She enjoys life with her three sisters and proud parents. We caught up with Kathryn to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to future leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

This career path certainly chose me. As I hiked up the Wat Phra That Doi Mountain in Chiang Mai, Thailand after a long week of work, my colleague began to sob. We were almost at the top of the mountain but she could no longer contain her emotions. Through her sobs she uttered, “Last night my country was overtaken by a military group. I have no home to go back to.” Her sobs continued. Chills traveled through my being, sending my body into shock. Later that evening I asked her, “What will you do? Stay here?” She quickly proclaimed, “No! I will go home and fight for what is right.” It was this fortitude, this tenacity, this passion to keep going even in the midst of the difficult circumstances that inspired this project. I have been convicted to life a life dedicated to helping individuals find their purpose, train resilience, and strategically navigate a life worth living.

Who inspired you to get involved?

My friends and family pushed me further that I ever believed I could go. My mentors from my undergraduate and graduate program have been crucial in my development as a leader. They constantly inspire, motivate, and enable me to get involved.

How do you define a leader?

I like to lean on the research definition of leadership, “the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations”. A leader is someone who serves a greater vision and dedicates themselves to the struggle with people and for people.

What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?

The Grit Factor project! You can check it out at thegritfactor.org. This July, a team of students will travel across the globe investigating resilience through human stories. We are interviewing individuals who have faced adversity (trauma, crimes against humanity, natural disasters, etc) and adapted positively. These individuals will be interviewed and filmed for a documentary. The goal of the documentary is to 1) show the world the reality of adversity people are facing on a day to day basis and 2) encourage others to be resilient in the adversity they face.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?

It is the responsibility of each individual to find a burden that they can take on to help others. Find that burden, marry it with your passion, and create a life that makes an impact past the life you live!
Also, have fun! The burden is never just one person’s to carry.