As a son of two Portuguese immigrants, Anthony Leal was fortunate to experience two different cultures while growing up in Philadelphia. In addition to regular schooling, he was enrolled in a different school where he would learn to speak, read and write that language.
He was open-minded and curious. “It opened my eyes to the world,” Leal says. “Growing up in a Portuguese household allowed me to see things from a different perspective.”
Leal, 24, became a part of the Model United Nations team, an educational simulator where students learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations.
“I have experienced some key life lessons that have helped me get to where I’m at today, but my journey had some struggles of its own,” he says.
His father’s construction business became a victim of the volatility and uncertainty of the 2008 economic crisis.
“It was stressful to see my parents worry and be consumed with the business, since it was our means of survival,” Leal says. “However, through that process my parents showed me what it meant to be resilient in the face of uncertainty.”
That, he says, was the motivation behind his desire to pursue a degree in political science and international relations.
His journey eventually brought him to Lancaster, where he works with the business relations team at the Lancaster Chamber.
“Our team helps local companies connect with the resources and information they need to improve their business,” he says.
To that end, the group works in collaboration with several organizations in initiatives that benefit the local community.
“Our goal is to bring about positive change right here in our community,” Leal says.
Family: Mother, Maria; father, Antonio; and sister, Jennifer.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from Widener University.
The best thing about my job: All the diverse stories I hear from businesses and their employees.
The most challenging thing about my job: We are working on so many different things right now that it can get overwhelming. Fortunately, there are people at the Chamber who have shared their experiences and how they grew from them.
Someone I admire: My parents. They clearly had enough patience to put up with me. They fought and managed their way to make sure my sister and I were cared for. As proud as they are of me, I am more proud of them.
My favorite meal: It’s a Portuguese dish called ‘bacalhau com natas.’ It’s a codfish dish.
Something you’ll always find in my refrigerator: Leftovers, because I haven’t learned to cook in normal portions.
Favorite way to spend a day: Sitting outside on a sunny day listening to music. Going to experience something new.
Best advice anyone ever gave me: You cannot control what happens around you, but you can control how you react. You can’t read someone’s mind so you must put yourself in their shoes to try to understand their actions.
The best book I’ve read: “The Court and The World” by Justice Stephen Breyer, in which the author examines the work of the Supreme Court.
My ideal vacation spot: Portugal, specifically Pontido and Vila Pouca de Aguiar, which is where my family is from.
Three words that best describe me: Curious, analytical, kind
Big picture goal: I love helping people. I want to work in an international human rights organization helping devise and implement solutions to real issues. I want to make sure I do what I can to leave a better world for future generations. One step at a time.