Sep 15, 2011
I sat down with Angelique Watson to learn about the many hours she spends volunteering. What I learned is that she is more than someone who has simply become involved with different organizations she feels connected to and passionate about. She has delved deeper into her interests than most of us do, all the while making the community better. She shows us that it is possible to turn one’s passions – whether it’s sports, gardening, cooking, or knitting – into a meaningful way to give back.
She started off our meeting by telling me that she had been born and raised in New Orleans, where she spent her high school years involved with two different organizations: the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO, website: www.cyo-no.org) through her church, and the basketball program at John Ehret High School. One of her many projects with the CYO was organizing the food bank. “It was always nice to be able to serve the community through an organization whose mission I believe in so closely,” she explained. Angelique also told me about her involvement with the basketball program at Ehret, while attending McMain High School. “I played sports myself, so I enjoyed helping with a program that I would take advantage of myself.”
Angelique went to LSU, where she studied Engineering, and became involved with the LSU chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), whose mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” She explained to me that this is an organization she remains involved in, and plans to continue such involvement for the foreseeable future. As a member NSBE’s alumni group in New Orleans, she talked about such events as an educational event for young children at the Children’s Museum, informational and mentoring programs for high school and college students, and fundraising for scholarships so current and future engineering students have money for things such as books and conferences. Angelique explained, “I have had the opportunity to go to conferences and better myself as a result of NSBE, and I feel strongly about paying it forward and giving other students the same opportunities I had.”
When talking about getting outside and getting dirty, Angelique told me about her experience building playgrounds and houses. It started when she took service-based engineering course at LSU in which her class designed, fundraised for, and built a playground. Angelique brought this experience back from Baton Rouge with her and has participated in playground builds through Kaboom, house builds through the St. Bernard Project, and the city-sponsored Fight the Blight days. “I used to play at that playground when I was a kid,” she said of the St. James Playspot she worked on, “It really means a lot to me to be able to give the next generation the same opportunity that I had.”
Angelique has also volunteered at Teen Tech Day, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, TribeCon, The Preservation Hall Stage at the Voodoo Experience (her grandfather was in the Preservation Hall Band and the Olympia Brass Band back in the day), Wednesday at the Square, EngageNOLA, Urban League YP, and I’m sure there are more. Angelique Watson is a perfect example of someone who has many passions, and has explored these passions while contributing to the betterment of her community. “Since I moved back to New Orleans in 2008, I’ve tried to find ways to give back,” she told me in closing. And she certainly has succeeded.