According to The National Women’s History Alliance, the women’s history month theme for 2023 is, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” This month, Every Learner Everywhere is honoring women who have devoted their lives and talents to challenging gender stereotypes, calling out discrimination, drawing attention to bias, and seeking inclusion. “Women have long been instrumental in passing on our heritage in word and in print to communicate the lessons of those who came before us. Women’s stories, and the larger human story, expand our understanding and strengthen our connections with each other.” We asked the Every Learner student interns to share their own stories of inspiring women in their lives taking actions to embrace equity in higher education through supporting their higher education journey. The students share their stories and what they themselves are doing to #embraceequity and forge women’s equity.
I moved to the United States as a child, and growing up as a woman in this country made me more aware of how equity could help women fulfill their full potential. My parents constantly pushed me to utilize educational opportunities and to learn as much as I could, which inspired me to consider how I could improve underrepresented populations’ access to education. Due to this passion of mine, I moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for a month, where I taught English to two young girls in high school. It was fun working with them to develop assignments that would improve their English-speaking abilities and learning about their future ambitions. This experience allowed me to do the best I could to provide increased access to equitable education, and it has made me more interested in how resources need to be adequately distributed to help young girls across the world to reach their full potential.
When I was a high school senior applying to colleges, I applied to and got accepted to Georgia State University. I was awarded the Goizueta Scholarship, an academic award for low-income and first-generation college students at Georgia State. The Latino Student Services and Outreach (LASSO) Office oversaw the scholarship, and this is where I met the Assistant Director Libia and the Retention Coordinator Iris. Being an out-of-state student, I had to navigate the culture shock of moving from Chicago to Atlanta while also adapting to my new life as a college student. Libia and Iris were constantly checking in on me and seeing how I was doing and if I needed any support academically or emotionally. I would stop by their offices when I was near the LASSO office on campus and catch up with them and my other friends. LASSO would host many events and workshops around the topics of being a first-generation college student, imposter syndrome, and what our cultural identity means to us. Also, Libia and Iris introduced me to programs like Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), which are both career preparation programs, where I met many of my friends on campus! Libia and Iris made LASSO a safe space for students, and I am extremely grateful for everything they did for us on campus.
Libia and Iris both have Master’s degrees and would share with us their pursuit of higher education through the highs and lows they encountered. They truly embodied the idea of “lift as you climb”, meaning that as they grew personally and professionally they made sure to let Latino students at Georgia State have access to programs/opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. They were always informing us about various scholarship and higher education opportunities, and supporting us in any other way they could by offering referrals or letters of recommendation for opportunities. I am always inspired and feel supported by Libia and Iris because of how compassionate they were always rooting for any endeavor I wished to pursue. They were very relatable throughout my journey in higher education because I realized it was normal to feel self-doubt, but because of them I knew I never had to tackle anything alone. I aim to follow in their footsteps by supporting my peers by sharing opportunities through ALPFA and MLT to #embraceequity and also lift as I climb through my young professional and collegiate career the way Libia and Iris did for me.
This past June, I had the opportunity to speak at a youth oriented leadership conference in New York City, where I presented a strategic plan that I had put together to increase organizational visibility in the EdTech sector. I had spent weeks preparing my research and knew the material by heart, but nothing could prepare me for the nerves that came with standing before a group of well-versed and well-educated individuals.
As part of our opening, we had exchanged brief introductions, but overall, I had no relationship with the other fellows. I did, however, know that while I was the youngest woman in the room, I was in a room made up entirely of women, which is not something I had previously experienced during my time in higher education.
The fellowship was open to anyone, but out of two-hundred and sixteen applicants, only nine were selected, all of which were women. We all hail from different backgrounds, but share a common goal to lead and provide growth and leadership opportunities for youth and those historically marginalized, including women. As each woman presented, she was given the utmost respect and attention she deserved, concluded with a well-deserved round of applause.
To see each seat in the conference room occupied by a woman, each a rising professional in their field, I felt immense pride and power, that as a collective, we are challenging stereotypes and biases of women in the workplace and higher education.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon for me to find a few leadership opportunities or collaborative project proposals in my inbox sent to me by my former team. I can proudly say that I would not be where I am today without the women who came before me and believed in my potential, and that is how we #EmbraceEquity.Get to Know the Every Learner Student Interns