Written by Jessica Lopez, student submission
It is an eye-opening experience to step out of your comfort zone. Personally, this means not limiting myself to set paths within my major. As a business major, I never considered the idea of participating in the public policy program until this year, my senior year. It wasn’t until I started talking to people who I found out that the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) is not only for political science majors but for everyone. I thought: How can a program based off of public policy in Washington, D.C. be for me?
Simple, in my years here at the Mount, health equity has been one of the public policies in which I have become an avid advocate. So much that one of my closest friends and I are in the beginning stages of creating our nonprofit on health equity. Starting a nonprofit requires a lengthy amount of research and a lot of dedication. As my senior year comes to an end, I have not given 100% of my dedication to the cause, but that does not mean that my heart is not 100% in it.
Suddenly, the Women’s Leadership office released the PLEN seminars for the Spring semester. It was as if the universe was letting me know that my dream will become a reality. One of the Spring seminar’s themes read “Women Unlocking Nonprofits.” At this point, I feel obliged to mention that I am thankful for the people who shared the knowledge of MSMU’s many opportunities and that gave me the push I needed to apply.
After surviving the hardest interview I have ever been a part of, I was going to Washington D.C. with two of my fellow Athenians, and we were going to represent Mount Saint Mary’s University. We were going alone and were going to interact with women leaders who are actively influencing public policy in the center of one of the most influential cities of our nation. I had to remind myself that I was an adult and that I could handle all the responsibility and information attached to this honor.
As a first generation student, this meant a great deal in my household. I figured all of Guatemala, where my family is from, to know that I was going to Washington D.C. I was right. I was immediately bombarded with emails, messages, and calls from all of my family members.
Fast forward to Tuesday, the day of departure, I was hustling to finish a midterm and make my flight on time. My parents dropped me off and reminded me to stay authentic with every person I meet. Their words of advice did not come from one of experience but one of hope. It was one of those moments every first generation child will experience, one of generational hope.
I caught the red-eye and woke up in Washington D.C. The next four days would consist of influential panelists, networking, and sightseeing. I gave my business card out like candy, raised my hand to learn more about the panelists, and walked 27 miles around the beautiful city. Every panel gave me insight into every step I will meet in building a non-profit.
It is an eye-opening experience to step out of your comfort zone, but an electrifying experience when you learn to embrace new waters.