It's not every day you get to meet a king.
Five students from HCC did just that at last month's Women's Leadership Conference at Bay Path College. One of the guest speakers was King Peggy, the king of Otuam, Ghana, an administrative assistant from Washington, D.C., who in 2008 was literally thrust overnight into a position of African royalty when the former king, her uncle, died and village elders selected her to succeed him.
The five young women from HCC's Multicultural Academic Services program (MAS) were attending the March 22nd conference when Bay Path College president Carol Leary asked them if they wanted to meet the king.
"There she was sitting with her guards in all her regalia," said Myriam Quinones, MAS coordinator, who accompanied the HCC contingent to the conference. "The girls couldn't believe it. They were having a private session with a king."
King Peggy spent about ten minutes with the girls.
"That was truly amazing," said Tameika Heathman, of Springfield. "I really thought I was dreaming for a minute when I shook hands with a king."
Heathman also got to talk to a queen -- actor and singer Queen Latifah, another of the featured guests, who took one of Heathman's questions during a Q&A with the audience. " I really don't remember specifically what I asked," said Heathman. "I was so star struck that words just poured out of my mouth. I've idolized Queen Latifah since I was about five years old."
The five students from HCC -- Heathman, Mary Soto, Eilianie Alvelo, Idaliz Melendez and Lara Gonzalez -- were invited to attend the annual day-long conference by Leary, as her personal guests, after she surprised them during a campus tour at Bay Path in early March.
For the girls, the invitation represented an incredible and unexpected opportunity.
"The students were so excited," said Quinones. "They felt so empowered by the speakers and the president."
Heathman said she was also inspired by author Susan Cain, who talked about "the power of introverts." "This was really meaningful to me," she said, "because I am about as introverted as they come."
HCC student Mary Soto said attending the conference was amazing. "Getting to hear stories about so many bold women has opened my eyes to a bigger and brighter world," she said. "It was a pleasure hearing these women tell their life stories. I am looking forward for the next conference."
Photos: (Left) King Peggy and Queen Latifah, at the Women's Leadership Conference at Bay Path College March 22. (Right) Mary Soto, Eilianie Alvelo, Tameika Heathman, Idaliz Melendez and Lara Gonzalez attended the conference as guests of Bay Path College president Carol Leary.