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My experience as a 2017 HERlead Fellow has been one of the most amazing and valuable experiences in my entire life. I came into the program wanting to find my own voice and learn how to be an effective leader for my community, but already in the past two days that I have been in the Forum, I have gained so much more from my experience than I could have ever imagined.

This program provided me with the opportunity to create new connections and networks filled with unique, inspirational women from both a national and international level. To be surrounded by other young women who are of similar age and have already done so many amazing things in their own communities is what really pushes the desire to want to contribute to the community and make a change in the world. Everyone has their own story, but hearing all the accomplishments and ideas of other peers is amazing and very inspiring. It also allows for the opportunity to build a bond with other Fellows and create new friendships.

I was also astonished when I met inspiring, motivational women such as Kah Walla, Kavita Shukla and Panmela Castro who created a positive impact in their community and raised awareness about certain issues that need to be addressed and combated. Through their stories, it made me realize that I too can be a leader in my own community and create change. Having equally inspiring and well-established mentors is also very amazing and enriching. Kah Walla is my mentor for the Forum and learning about her story and her perspective has led me to reflect on my own life and to always try to think outside the box in order to solve an issue.

I also learned a lot about myself through this experience. I was able to learn how to express myself and how to harness my voice in a way that can reach others. I was also able to learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses, and although at times it felt very intimidating, I knew that I was surrounded by a strong support of women who cared about my vision and what I had to say. One important lesson I learned during my time at the conference was the importance of confidence. I will always remember this quote a Loft associate mentioned that was said by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” These words gave me the courage to not feel intimidated, to know that what I had to say mattered, that I have to believe in myself and always put forth my best effort and that I can make a change. And you can too.

HERlead is about hard work, but it is also about having fun too. There are many fun and exciting opportunities throughout the entire Forum. I am very proud to be a member of HERlead. It is a very enriching and life changing experience.