When undergraduate student Katherine Romero was in high school, she joined the Leadership Training Institute (LTI) at John F. Kennedy High School, and through that experience she developed a passion for leadership. She continued that passion by participating in the University of Maryland School of Public Policy’s Public Leadership Program and Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program.
“After my involvement in LTI, I knew that leadership was something I wanted to continue to grow in,” Romero said. “The Public Leadership Program seemed like a gradual continuation of what I learned in LTI. It took my development to the next level and really challenged me.”
Romero said in high school she met Nina Harris, SPP assistant dean of undergraduate studies. “Her students from the Rawlings Program were working alongside us to put on a leadership conference,” she said. “I was able to see firsthand that the students weren’t just sitting in a classroom being lectured at, but were encouraged to be hands-on. That experience inspired me to apply to the Rawlings Program during my sophomore year at Maryland.”
“I had a great experience as a Rawlings Fellow,” Romero added. “Dr. Harris always made herself available to her students and really took the time to listen to us and give great advice. She was really adamant about providing us with a safe space to talk about the social issues that are impacting our community and she always encouraged us to think outside the box and come up with potential solutions.”
Romero said she has also been influenced by her participation in the Public Leadership Program. “The Public Leadership Program was the first program I really immersed myself in at UMD, and it laid the foundation for the rest of my college experience,” she said. “It really allowed me to take an inventory of myself as a leader and it provided me with tools necessary to improve the issues I was passionate about and myself. Over the past three years, Dr. Jen Littlefield has become a wonderful mentor of mine. She has always been someone that I can count on to be in my corner supporting, motivating and encouraging me to challenge myself.”
“My experience in the Public Leadership Program has taught me valuable lessons on teamwork, negotiations, service and leadership that I will carry with me in my future career as an Army officer,” she added.
In addition to her experience with the Public Leadership Program, Romero is also an active participant in the Army ROTC program, Federal Semester program and the Leadership Community Service Learning Office at UMD.
“The best decision that I made throughout my entire college experience was joining the Army ROTC program,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I was a Navy Junior ROTC cadet in high school, but this was completely different. For me, finding that balance between my academics and ROTC came down to scheduling. Although it is time consuming, it is also a very rewarding experience that has complimented and enriched my overall academic experience.”
Romero was recently chosen as the battalion commander for the Army ROTC program. “I feel very honored to be selected as the battalion commander for the ARMY ROTC program next school year,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, I am always striving to make my family proud and show my parents that their sacrifices were not made in vain. I see this as being a return on their investment in my life and development as a person.”