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In my sophomore year of high school, I started the Latina Legacy Foundation. But no one really talks about how overwhelming it can be. I’ve spent many late nights panicking over scattered budgets, packed schedules, and thick contracts. Pursuing a project like this requires lot of ambition, determination, and bravery. Especially when you’re a woman.

I was recently reading Slut, by Leora Tanenbaum. One of her major points was that, despite the barriers crossed and glass ceilings shattered, society still exerts forcible control over women. Through advertisements, television, and movies–we’re told what to be, how to be, what to say. Consequently, women are pitted against other women, and we are conditioned to perceive our fellow women as competition rather than allies. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Not in the slightest! And I realize that there is no better way to solve this problem than to have women bind together rather than spread apart. After all,“behind every strong woman is another strong woman.”

I certainly experienced this realization, firsthand, during my time at the 2017 HerLead Fellowship Conference in New York City. Here, I connected to a network of strong, ambitious, and dedicated women. Some are founders of Fortune 500 Corporations, U.S. Ambassadors, and Global Leaders. Yet all are willing to devote their time and energy towards supporting young girls like me. Overall, they radiated with enthusiasm and excitement as they approached us, both collectively and individually. I thought that this was astounding, especially considering how hectic and packed their own lives must be. During the conference, I also had the opportunity to connect with my own mentor, Maria Pacheco. As a fellow Latina, she inspired and motivated me with her poignant pieces of advice, telling me to never lose sight of my bond to my community. Because of her, I began the Calor Application, a partnership between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Latina Legacy Foundation. Through this, I began to create an application designed to improve the lives of farmworkers in my community.

But now that the conference is over with, I realize that my community is also HerLead. It’s absolutely necessary that we 30 Fellows keep in touch with each other. While scrolling through our photos, I am reminded that I am amongst the next generation’s future leaders. I realize that I might have shared a conversation, meal, or hotel room with the future President of the United States. Regardless of what it is, every single one of these girls are bound to do innovative things with their passions and interests. This, I’m certain of.