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What it Means to Me to be a HERlead Fellow, Claire Copher

During the spring break of my sophomore year of high school, my life was changed. That was when I got my congratulatory email notifying me that I had been accepted into the HERlead Fellowship. I didn’t know, of course, by that point that my life was changed, but ever since the day I read that email, I have been blessed with opportunities that I never even imagined I would get the possibility to have.

I always knew I wanted to lead. But at a high school with only 600 students, located in a town too small to find on a map, I didn’t see much possibility to. But becoming a HERlead Fellow changed all of that. It was at the Forum that I truly felt encouraged to step out of my comfort zone to lead. I not only had an abundance of adults encouraging me to lead but more important, I had my fellow cohort of girls sending me support from all over the country. Even though it was summer vacation, I had never felt so ready to go back to school, because I knew as soon as I did, I would get to start sharing what I learned at the Forum with my peers.

And that’s just what I did. I came back as a junior and immediately started planning how I could use what I learned about leading, and I thought of ways I could encourage other girls to do the same. That is how the Girl2Girl Mentoring Program came to be. 11th and 8th grade girls came together to build friendships and leadership skills that they could use to give back to our community and to succeed in their academic and occupational futures. This year will be the 4th Girl2Girl program, and I am excited to see where the future will take the participants.

Since being a HERlead Fellow in 2014, I have gotten so many opportunities to prove my leadership potential. I have been awarded four HERlead grants to sponsor Girl2Girl, and now the Vital Voices Mentoring Walk here in Fresno. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Vital Voices and HERlead Global Delegation in Half Moon Bay, where 100 of Vital Voices’ most established network members all gathered to discuss the future of women’s leadership, and what role Vital Voices could play. I was also chosen as a HERlead Ambassador, representing all Fellows in and around the Central Valley of California. And most importantly, I got to intern for Vital Voices this past summer, and was even taken to New York for the 2017 HERlead Fellowship to sit on a panel of past Fellows.

Despite all of the incredible opportunities, the most important part of being a HERlead Fellow is the support I know I have from all of the other amazing girls and women in the program that I know I can always count on if I need help or advice. The staff in Vital Voices and ANN Inc. continue to encourage me in everything I do, and for that I know that I have what it takes to change the world.