I grew up in a large city in New Jersey where my mentors were diverse in their genders, ages, religions, ethnicities, and other identities. Each of them gave me advice based on their own life experiences and perspectives, which has allowed me to become the person I am today.
The diversity of my mentors comes from the community I live in, the schools I attended, and the ways in which I selected the people I chose to be around. While my mentors have been incredibly diverse, some of my most important role models have been women of color who have bravely paved the way for young women like me to be in leadership positions and hold elected office.
Women of color constitute 4.5% of the 535 members of the 113th Congress. Of this 4.5%, only one is a Senator and two of them serve as non-voting delegates in the House of Representatives. Beyond the clear political ramifications of having such scarce diversity in Congress, for young women of color across the country it means lacking access to critical role models.
I believe that every individual, regardless of background, brings his or her own unique perspective to elected office. Therefore, it is incredibly critical to have diversity in the types of candidates who run for office. Increased diversity would only help the government of our country be more representative of the people who live here.
Working for a woman of color in Congress has made me feel incredibly empowered. She has clearly demonstrated to me the skills, strength, and perseverance it takes for a woman of color to not only get elected, but to be successful while in office. Perhaps, more importantly, she has taught me that becoming invested in issues that matter to you is the most critical aspect of any career.
There are many mentors I will come across throughout my life. However, my Running Start Star Fellowship has allowed me to have a crucial mentor, a person who has made me feel more thoroughly prepared for any leadership position I might take on in the future.
– Adriane Alicea, Star Fellow Spring 2013