Hi, I’m Angela! Here’s a bit about my life so far:
I’ve got two bachelors degrees—one in Psychology and the other in Communication, as well as a Masters degree in Communication Management (a management degree), all from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, where I was a Presidential Scholar. Part of my undergraduate education was done while studying abroad in London. I wrote my Master’s thesis on same-sex parenting.
In 2018, I earned a doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning from George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. My doctoral dissertation research focused around the experience of modern day polymaths—also known as “Renaissance men/women.” This was a herculean feat: I worked full-time, went through an entire pregnancy and early motherhood, all while working towards my doctorate on a full-time basis, which I finished in record time (three years). I graduated with a 3.9 GPA, a member of Golden Key Honor Society (top 10% of my class), and also was told that the oral exams that my small team and I presented were among the best in the history of the program. Forgive me if this sounds like boasting, but it’s true: I nailed my doctoral coursework, despite all the odds. My brother jokingly refers to me as “Doctalessa” (combining “doctor” with my last name “Cotellessa”).
In 1999, I interned for the California Governor’s Office, and later in the summer of 2005, I was a White House intern. Being a White House intern was a dream come true — I literally made it my goal when I was 12 years old, and accomplished it when I was 24. I guess you could say I’m a planner.
In my twenties, while living in Los Angeles, I spent several years working at a shelter for battered women and their children, which was very rewarding. That organization is called 1736 Family Crisis Center.
After I completed my Master’s degree, and after my White House internship, I got in my car from Los Angeles, and headed east to Washington, DC. Not too long after landing in the DC area, I was hired by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) as a non-political, career federal employee. I spent six wonderful years working for the office of the President, beginning under the Bush Administration, and staying throughout President Obama’s first term. While working at EOP, I was lucky enough to be put into the “Executive Leadership Program” for up-and-coming government leaders, which led to me being temporarily assigned to the State Department at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I worked in public relations.
From 2013 to 2015, I worked for the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) in Charlottesville, VA where I organized training seminars for members of the Senior Executive Service—the federal government’s most prestigious and elite group of senior-level, career civil servants. Since 2015, I have worked for FEI’s sister organization within the Center for Leadership Development, at the Eastern Management Development Center, where I manage a portfolio of leadership development programs for learners from across the federal government space. Basically, we try to make government (which is different from politics) better.
I’m also involved in a local non-profit group called ProMOMenade; we organize an annual Prom for Moms and which allows us to donate money to select charities, while also giving local women a much deserved fun night out to feel beautiful, pampered, and connected with other women (most of whom are moms) in the community. Check out www.promomenade.org for more information on that.
Aside from my work for the federal government, I also serves as the Manager of a family-owned real estate and investment company which my paternal grandparents founded. We call it GAM Investments, since both of my grandparents’ initials were G.A.M. (Georgia Anne Meyers and George Albert Meyers).
TRAVEL AND LEARNING
For fun, I enjoy international travel; I’ve been to approximately 40 countries on 6 continents to date. In years past, I was a dual-sport motorcycle rider, and I’ve been skydiving, bungee jumping, and sampled various other daredevil activities. If you name it, I’ve probably tried it at least once. I like to push myself to have broad experiences—even those outside of my comfort zone. And I love to learn. I’ve been to countless workshops, retreats, seminars, and conferences—especially those of self-help and spiritual nature.
More recently, I’ve started dabbling into the world of writing and publishing, and had an article make it as the cover story in Federal Manager Magazine for their Spring 2018 edition.
My major life goals are to continue to learn and improve myself, to experience life fully and authentically, and to hopefully have a positive impact along the way. I consider myself a collector of lessons (hence the name of this website). (I consider myself a collector of relationships, too.)
In terms of family, I come from a multi-cultural family: my mother is a Cuban immigrant, and my father was a white guy of mixed European descent (German, French, Irish, English…and a tiny bit of Native American thrown in there too, I’m told).
I grew up in a household with a unique family constellation: I lived with my dad and my paternal grandparents, plus two older brothers. My dad was a beer-drinking, truck-driving All American blue collar kind of guy. His name was Dave. He liked women, motorcycles, and Budweiser. He was a sweet teddy bear on the inside, really. But harsh life experiences took the steam out of him, and he seemed to give up on life in his early thirties. He was also a severe alcoholic, and he passed away at only 54 years old because of it. His liver could only take so much.
My paternal grandparents were not highly educated, but they were hard working, and managed to build up a sizeable portfolio of single family homes in the San Francisco Bay Area, over decades of nose-to-the-grindstone effort. My grandfather built them with his own two hands, and my grandma managed the business side of the operation. In a jocular way, and also with respect and admiration for all they managed to accomplish, I describe them as being like the Beverly Hillbillies. My grandfather grew up in a farm in Nebraska, and my grandmother was born into severe poverty in backwoods Arkansas. They grew up in the Great Depression. And despite tremendous obstacles, including both of them losing their fathers at a young age and growing up poor, they both built something together that has withstood the test of time. I’m very grateful for the impact that their hard work had on my life, because so many opportunities were made possible because of the funds they were willing to share with me. Thank you, Mamaw and Frampa (that’s what we called them) for your sacrifice, thoughtfulness, and generosity. My education, much of my travels, and my first home I bought were all made possible because of them.
Despite the huge role that Mamaw and Frampa played in my life, my maternal grandparents were also dedicated to me and my brothers. We called my grandmother “Mima” and grandfather “Wampa.” (Their real names were Faustino and Amparo Garcia.) In fact, growing up, they would religiously pick up me, Matt, and Paul up every other weekend to spend a few days at their two-bedroom apartment in Alameda, CA. I remember lots of black beans, rice, and picadillo (the family specialty), rice pudding that had lemon rind and cinnamon sticks in it, trips to Blockbuster to rent movies on VHS, and extravaganzas at the toy store. Mima always gave us bubble baths and clipped our toe nails–that was her thing. They were always around, always loving, always dedicated to us. But I could still tell that Mima was a bit of a pistol, and cussed in Espanol like a Spanish sailor. Wampa was calm, steady, and tolerant. I suppose they fit together well that way. They both never lost their thick, Cuban accents, and they both spoke of Fidel Castro like he was a monster.
Of course, all of my grandparents played an important role in my upbringing. But of all of them, I was closest with my father’s mother, who sadly passed away in 2003 due to the ramifications of a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. I had just turned 22 years old, and her long, drawn-out death was traumatizing for me to watch. Words cannot express how much she meant and still means to me, or how positive her impact was on who I’ve become. I lived with her from the age of 2 to 18, when I went off to college, and in many ways she was like my mother to me. But really she was so much more than that. If there is such a thing as a soul-mate, or a soul-connection, I definitely have that with her. I considered her my best friend, despite the many years between us in age. (Somehow I doubt many young people have a best friend who is 5 decades in age older than they are.) To this day, I still have a soft spot in my heart for little old ladies. And Georgia Anne Meyers is still my hero.
WATCHING AFTER FRAMPA
In 2014, I moved my aging grandfather, who in many ways was like a dad to me, from California to Virginia. He had dementia and needed to be near a family member to watch over him in his final years. Since his two sons and wife all passed away before him, I took on that responsibility, and he settled in nicely as a Virginia gentleman in a facility that took good care of him. I visited frequently. He passed away in 2017 at the ripe old age of 95 due to complications from diabetes and dementia. He flirted with the women staff there right up until the end.
I’ve been married since 2012 to my husband, Joe. Together, we have a beautiful, healthy, smart, vivacious little girl named Lily Georgia (her middle name is after my dear grandmother); she was born in July of 2016. We also have a very patient, intelligent, well-behaved German Shepherd named Nico who tolerates Lily’s shenanigans like a champ. We live in a beautiful home in Springfield, Virginia, about 15 miles away from Washington, DC.
Music is also a notable part of my life nowadays. I have been a member of an adult pops choir, the Alexandria Singers, for a number of years. And I’ve also written a few songs and in general, enjoy creative expression.