4 Life Lessons the HERlead Program Taught Me
Life lessons don’t always appear in a textbook. I came to D.C. in 2014 as a HERlead Fellow, a member of a girls’ leadership program provided by ANN Inc and Vital Voices. Little did I know that HERlead (then ANNpower) would be far more than leadership training; it would become my sisterhood and my inspiration. With help from HERlead I founded my community project, One Pen One Page, which provides creative writing and storytelling resources to underserved youth. Later I would come back to the program as a Global Delegate in London in 2016, and an Ambassador in D.C. this year. The exciting part is that every time I return I learn something new, changing and developing with the program. I learned all my HERlead lessons through experience and observance, and now I’m excited to share them with you.
- Go for it, but with purpose (or “all who wander are not lost”)
One of the first things HERlead taught me was the importance of going after your dreams, but with a sense of purpose. It’s alright to not know how to start, or to be confused about how to get there; what’s most significant is your driving force. With that purpose, you will never be lost; you might wander and try new paths, but you will be grounded in who you are.
For example, One Pen One Page throws an annual Write On! Leadership and Literacy Symposium. When thinking of how to build on the event this year, I reflected on my driving force, which was to help youth tell their stories. I wanted to uphold that with the symposium, so in 2017 we held it directly in a school, rather than a local theater, and worked in classed to get students writing. Whatever your driving force is, it will show you the way!
- Be active in your girl-gang network
HERlead taught me the value of girls supporting girls. I’m unafraid to lean on the shoulders of the amazing young women around me; I find that rather than showing weakness, being honest and vulnerable with women you trust brings strength. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called a HERlead fellow with questions, concerns, or college worries!
But also I came to understand through HERlead that you can’t just take—you have to give as well. I put time and energy in supporting my other girl bosses.
The courage of women in the Vital Voices network, like Kah Walla, http://kahwalla.com a Cameroonian politician who was kidnapped while running for office, inspire me every day. They teach me that success is not in accomplishments, but standing back up when others demand you take a seat on the sidelines.
- Have fun! (or, wear a boa)
HERlead fellows know how to have fun while leading in their communities. Whether it’s going together shopping at ANN stores, or presenting hilarious skits about ways to engage the HERlead network, we know there’s always a way to infuse some joy into leadership. One of my favorite quotes from my time at HERlead is by Patti Russo: “Live life like you’re wearing a boa.”