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Setting the Stage: 2024 BranchOut! Opening Event

BranchOut!’s annual training and open house event took place on Friday, June 21st, 2024, at 7 PM EST. BranchOut! leaders David Cao and Dr. Linfeng Chen, a member of the Howard County Public School Systems Board of Education, encouraged new and returning members to grow and explore their passions.



This year, David Cao, a rising Harvard freshman who has been a BranchOut! mentor since middle school, kicked off the training event. He began by talking about his transformative experience with The Explorer program. Through The Explorer program, students are able to connect with people from all over the world, diversifying their perspectives and allowing them to grow as people. David further emphasized how although leading The Explorer program was difficult, it encouraged him to push boundaries and embrace challenges.



Next, Dr. Chen spoke to BranchOut! members about the importance of diversity, community, and global citizenship. He shared some incredible statistics regarding the HoCo chapter of BranchOut!, with the 27 members collectively spending 1506 hours volunteering at 7 distinct sites. Dr. Chen also stressed the importance of self-reflection, inspiring mentors to make a difference in their communities. 





Finally, Dr. Yuhsien Wu, co-founder of BranchOut!, led mentors to ponder a question: “Why did you join BranchOut!?” Answers ranged from students who simply wanted service hours to students who wanted to make a real difference in their communities. Her motivational presentation on the integral values BranchOut! fosters helped mentors set growth goals that they could reflect on in the future. After her presentation, members of the junior leadership team briefly introduced their specific programs as well as general member expectations and email etiquette. Mentors then split into breakout rooms for program-specific training, led by their respective student leaders.


Thank you to all the emcees, program leaders, speakers, including David Cao, Dr. Chen, and Dr. Wu, as well as student mentors, for helping to make this year’s training event a success! We look forward to a great summer with you all.



Here are some testimonies from training event attendees:


“Attending the BranchOut! training event on June 21 was an amazing experience. This year, we listened to two incredible guest speakers, David Cao and Dr. Linfeng Chen. Their stories really motivated me to learn from different perspectives and give back to the community. Dr. Yuhsien Wu also gave a fantastic presentation, encouraging us to have intrinsic motivation and use BranchOut! as an opportunity to grow. During the junior leadership session, I learned a lot about the various programs BranchOut! offers and their goals for this year. I also had a great time getting to know the mentors who will be working with me in the Community Workshops program. The event left me even more excited for this summer's BranchOut! program!” - Jennifer Zhang, rising 11th grade, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


“As a returning BranchOut! member this year, I can confidently say that the 2024 BranchOut! training event exceeded my expectations. During the event, we were not only provided the opportunity to reunite and meet fellow and former BranchOut! members, but also the chance to listen to and reflect on the inspiring backgrounds and stories of BranchOut! leaders, David Cao and Dr. Chen. Throughout the event, I gained insight into the importance of involvement in our community, which BranchOut! graciously provides with its various programs. I had an amazing time reconnecting with my former program members and meeting new ones. I look forward to experiencing another year with BranchOut! this summer!” - Angelina Si, rising 11th grade, Chantilly High School



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