As I listened to Chescaleigh Ramsey talk about her famous YouTube video “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls,” it occurred to me that it is not often that I am in an environment where I’m forced to assess my effectiveness as an ally and as a leader.
In June 2016 I attended National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL, pronounced “nick-whistle”), a unique and empowering experience that tested my comfort zone and made me feel more able to affect change on campus and in the world. I was lucky to attend NCCWSL thanks to sponsorship from the Newark branch of the American Association for University Women (AAUW). Over a weekend on the University of Maryland campus, we talked at NCCWSL about the harmfulness of simply standing by, rather than recognizing and responding to, the problem of street harassment on campuses. We considered how colleges commit to equality and women’s rights. We learned about ways to be active allies, rather than symbolic ones, for important issues.
We shared stories. We laughed. We got angry. Equally as important as learning about the ways in which we can improve our campuses and our spheres of the world, we embraced each other and our individual experiences with open arms.
NCCWSL was the catalyst for many more experiences I’ve had as a woman leader since returning to campus last fall. At NCCWSL, I spent three days of self-growth and reflection, and being around people who I know will make a difference in the world. After returning from the conference, I found alliances with AAUW and attended a bill signing at the Delaware Legislative Hall for equal pay for women in the workplace next to Lilly Ledbetter herself. I’ve gotten more involved in organizations that empower women and publicly advocate for beliefs I share.
The AAUW Newark Branch is sponsoring another UD student woman leader for the 2017 NCCWSL conference. If you enjoy being in the room where change is happening, I encourage you to apply. If you want to learn to be a better leader and a stronger ally, please apply. If you want to change your world, start with NCCWSL 2017.
Information about AAUW Newark Branch sponsorship for NCCWSL 2017 is available on UDaily, and the application is available here.
Julie Millisky is a senior at the university studying public policy. She can be reached at email@example.com. The views in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Review.