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Torchbearer: a person who leads or inspires others in working toward a valued goal

This week, we are recognizing U.S. Naval Officer, Commander Kathryn Wijnaldum as Torchbearer.

According to 11 Alive, Commander Kathryn Wijnaldum recently returned home to the Metro Atlanta area and used her time off from the Military to uplift the youth at her alma mater, Stone Mountain High School. This week, she visited the school’s Navy JROTC program and other students. She encouraged the students to be true to themselves and continue to work hard and persevere.

Commander Wijnaldum knows all too well the benefits of the advice she’s given them. She worked tirelessly to get into the U.S. Naval Academy and later became the commander of the USS Oak Hill, a warship made up of more than 300 personnel on board. Though her journey was not easy, she never gave up and now she’s back home to impart that wisdom onto tomorrow’s future leaders.

“It’s about creating an opportunity for others to do more, achieve more than I did. That pressure birthed a purpose in me that I didn’t even know I had. That pressure identified a gift and talent I brought to the table,” Wijnaldum told 11 Alive.

Commander Wijnaldum credits her family for instilling values of strength and leadership within her from an early age. As a Black woman, Wijnaldum also recognizes the importance of diverse representation in the armed forces and hopes by coming back to her community, that she will inspire others.

“I understand that I represent what they could one day achieve, and when I was in the program, I didn’t have the opportunity to see someone who looked like me who achieved professional success like I have,” Wijnaldum told 11 Alive. “I’m willing to share my journey if it means that I can help someone else achieve what they may believe is impossible.”

DeKalb County commends Commander Kathryn Wijnaldum for her work in giving back to the community and thanks her for her service. To read more about her inspiring story, click here.

Do you know a person or organization who is a DeKalb County Torchbearer? Nominate them to be featured in The Relay.