On October 21, 2017, several UCLA students joined us for the IGNITE SoCal College Council, a space dedicated to fostering networks between women interested in running for office and a career within the political sphere. It was the first one I ever attended, and I am pleased to say that the engagement of my peers and the dedication of our guests made the Council an empowering experience. Organized by SoCal Fellow Dalila Valdez, we heard stories from women who hold local elected positions:
Sonia Lopez, a board member of the Compton Community College District, and Amy Thomas Howorth of the Manhattan Beach City Council and Mayor Pro Tem of the city. We also got to hear from Juana Hernandez, a first-generation college graduate who is the Vice Chair of the Young Professionals of Latinas Lead California and the Higher Education Manager with the LA Compact. Through the diverse narratives that these women provided, one theme that resonates throughout is the importance of representation.
For me, it was very impactful seeing women in touch with their power and using it to advance the voices of their communities. I once wanted to run for Congress, but coming from a background in which I was constantly told that I could not make it, I have been at odds with maintaining this goal. Even more pressing were my worries of not succeeding at UCLA, an institution I did not know how to navigate as a first-generation college student.
Nevertheless, as I reflect on my experience at UCLA, I have met many resilient, empowering women that have reached great lengths with the help of a supportive system that include other empowered women. I have often heard a dear friend say: “if you are not uplifting women, then you are just bringing them down, and that’s not what we need.” It has made me re-evaluate what kinds of relationships I want to establish with those around me and it has really pushed me to really challenge myself to raise expectations I have set for myself. And maybe, one day, I will reach Congress.
The College Councils are a unique and inspiring space to be in, so I will continue to share IGNITE events and resources with my friends, my classmates, and women in my family because I want them to experience empowerment as well.