Alumni Feature: Isaiah Gallaway

Isaiah Gallaway

"In trying times where things feel impossible, I have this drive and feeling to make it possible." Such are the uplifting words of Isaiah Gallaway, participant of Policy Pathways' 2020 Summer Academy for Policy Leadership and Public Service Online (SAO). He was looking forward to a return to in-person classes in the fall of his senior year in high school, but the pandemic had other plans.

"My senior year was supposed to be very promising," he said. "In terms of getting college offers [for wrestling] and scholarships, even going to college, all of that went down the drain" when his classes were forced into an entirely virtual school year. "That last year, you want to leave your footprint, and I had that opportunity taken away from me; it completely crushed my spirit." Isaiah questioned his post-high school prospects, considering a gap year before college to take stock of his reality and expectations. The months of ups and downs and concentrating on the good he had, taught him fortitude and turned his perspective around by graduation.

He is now completing his first semester at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland as a Business Administration major. "I never expected myself to do it. First, I was not going to go [to college], then I was taking a gap year, and then I started in the fall." All the time away from the social impediments of regular life allowed Isaiah to focus on his mental health and overall wellbeing. "Now I feel I can get through anything. Just conquering those unexpected experiences gives me more confidence to go for and do things that seem impossible."

The smaller class size at Prince George's is a giant benefit for Isaiah. He is building a foundation for a strong GPA and making connections with professors, working to join student staff in the performing arts building. This is right in line with his passion, music production. Isaiah creates music under the stage name "Kymori." Listen to his song, My World (feat. Zei), on YouTube (https://bit.ly/30SWlNs) or any major streaming platform! In October 2021, Policy Pathways welcomed Kymori to the virtual Fall Celebration stage to share a track and speak to his program experience. "I make music for other people, for the feeling I get. Music is therapy; I want to see other people happy."

That sentiment is the root of his interest in policy and politics. Isaiah enjoys debating and absorbing the memorable conversations that arise. "I connect with [policy] because I'm passionate when I talk about it. Anybody wants to [assert opinions], but having a consistent feeling of wanting to help others drives me in that field." In his session of SAO, he most enjoyed working and learning alongside other students who knew more than he did. Such is the beauty of the Summer Academy: the conglomerate of dedicated young professionals and high school- and college-aged students that make up the cohorts are vastly diverse in terms of demographics, location, and learning style, and pace. The collaborative ethos in the class levels the playing field yet challenges individuals and expounds upon their strengths and skills. Isaiah thrived in the demanding curriculum, soaking up knowledge from peers and professors alike. "It's the best feeling," he says. "Having sufficient understanding of a topic enough that you don't have to feel awkward in a conversation. I connected, I understood. I could hold my own in an environment where people genuinely knew more than me."

Isaiah worked on a Capstone project in conjunction with the Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine titled "Reimagining Policing: A Model for Local Law Enforcement." Ms. Tyee Mallory, site representative, was of considerable service to the four project participants in relaying real-world implications of exacting change, especially in the exact moments and days the public is clamoring for them. In terms of demilitarizing the police, the call to action protestors and advocates all over the country were pushing in the midst of last year's summer academy, "she was trying to let us know that it's going to be very long for that to take effect, a new system. She got us to think in different ways. For example, instead of 'How can we recreate a police system?" ask "What can we change in policing to create an effective one?'"

Isaiah carries with him the notion that policy is "primarily concerned with being creative and coming up with ways to help everybody where they are. . . . If you want to change things, you have to know what's going on, the ins and outs," he asserts.

Isaiah Gallaway is embarking on the next great leg of his academic and professional journey. He stands on firm ground after experiencing a few bumps in the road. He has overcome the unexpected and is propelling himself towards a future full of opportunity. His words of advice? "Even if you feel like you've hit a brick wall, just know that this is not your destination. It's just a temporary red light. Keep your cool in times like this. It will help you understand mental strength and discipline, and that right there is the key to success."