KOA Perspective: I Started KOA at UMD, and Here’s Why

At first, KOA was simply an idea, a concept that was closer to a longing sentiment than an actual, physical organization. It was a feeling defined by a want much greater than a need: to be a member of something relevant to my career interests and aspirations. This desire was fueled by the yearning for a community of people who shared the same unifying goal of making the world a better place, one policy at a time. I took the advice of Mahatma Gandhi and sought out to be the change that I really wished to see in my world, and with that, KOA was born.

KOA’s pillars and values describe our story. The four pillars, NEST and three values RIG, both acronyms, truly describe KOA’s journey of establishment. Without a strong network of current UMD campus leaders and future leaders of the world, the first executive board would not have been formed. Without a shared love of enthusiasm and service for others, change, and empowerment, KOA would not have been able to attract its current members and transform into the organization that it is today. The three values can be seen inside KOA in our brothers’ hearts and spirits. Respect, integrity, and grit are the universal principles of leaders. KOA members respect each other’s dreams and reasons for change, complete their missions with the utmost integrity and further their individual passions with grit. The NEST is truly the foundation on which we RIG ourselves to success.

Jacqueline Ford wears her KOA pride.

With each day that passes, I am even more amazed at how strong, loving, and inspiring KOA has grown to be. It has become everything that I envisioned it to be and more. What I did not realize was that it would be so much more than a professional fraternity full of policy nerds: it has become a family. We are an eclectic group full of different policy passions, interests and backgrounds, yet we share the same craving to make a difference in each of our respective spaces.

Now, as I look back to KOA’s humble beginnings, to the time where I was constantly searching for my nest, I am thankful for that once-nagging feeling of wanting to belong to a like-minded community. Without its persistence, I would have never gathered the courage to start an organization full of uplifting people that would push me to be a better version of myself. KOA is family, a nest away from nest, supporting and encouraging its members to launch their arrows forward to success.

Jacqueline Ford is a rising senior public policy major and the 2018–2020 President of KOA.