An update from Saren, a senior accounting major:

ASB-LA2.jpg ASB-LA2-2010.jpgOne of the most memorable days in Los Angeles for me would have to be the day Sheryl Lee Ralph stopped by the AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) to speak to all of the collegiate volunteers.

What started as just another day at the APLA quickly changed when the head of volunteer resources, Jim Williams, casually told me that famed actress Sheryl Lee Ralph would be visiting the office. To say I was excited is an understatement. Looking back, my response to Jim might have been a bit strong. As he was considering which volunteer positions and locations to dole out, I interrupted, “Well, I need to be here in this office!”

The day continued with Jim deciding to keep all volunteers in the office because he wanted us to hear Ms. Ralph’s speech. As I started to work on my assignment, word quickly spread through the office that Ms. Ralph would stop by around noon. We all piled into the conference room and anxiously waited.

I quietly, but very proudly, posted on my Facebook and Twitter that Ms. Ralph was coming to “my” office and that I couldn’t have been more excited for her arrival. Just as I slipped my phone back into my pocket, the office intern, Reuben, came in to tell us that Ms. Ralph’s prior engagement at the “Brian McKnight Show” was unable to be rescheduled and she had to cancel her trip to our office.

24349_614666950529_18802332_35995104_4404377_n.jpgDejectedly we went back to work. As I walked through the office, someone called me over to finish some paperwork a group of volunteers had started the day before. Needless to say, the day was a bust and the assignment I was working on was less than glamorous.

It was around 1:30 p.m. and I was wondering whether the day could get any worse. When I got out my phone to alert my Twitter followers of Ms. Ralph’s absence, I saw I had two unopened text messages: “Saren, where are you Sherry’s HERE!”

The speed at which I made it back to the conference room has never before been recorded by human beings. Ms. Ralph had just walked into the conference room and had begun telling the other volunteers about her work with AIDS awareness and what it was like at a time when AIDS was a little disease that was “only affecting gay, white men.”

The work Ms. Ralph has done with her organization, DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed), coupled with her dynamic speaking style, has greatly transformed the way people view this epidemic. I know that for me, her words really hit home and inspired me to increase my own work for AIDS awareness. With people like Ms. Ralph fighting for those who are infected, it is hard to believe that some people still take their lives and health for granted.

Having Ms. Ralph speak with us was the greatest gift the APLA and Jim Williams could have given. Sheryl Lee Ralph represents the fight and the consistent vigilance that HIV/AIDS advocates must have to ensure that their passion is never buried in the headlines or hidden from the public.

ASB-LA-2010.jpg Hopefully I was not the only one who was inspired that day. Because when Ms. Ralph and Mr. Williams told us that when they’re gone, we are going to be the ones fighting for this cause, I took them seriously.