Cristina Rodriguez

September 8, 2010

In the summer of 2009, I was selected, along with 49 other extraordinary young girls from throughout the United States, for the amazing opportunity to participate in the Running Start Young Women’s Political Leadership Program. This was a great experience from beginning to end. I am from Olympia, Washington, and it was my first time traveling to Washington, D.C., the epicenter of U.S. politics. I had the chance to experience the lifestyle of the east coast, which is completely different from the one here in the west coast.

During this intensive program, we were able to meet influential women in politics who have built names for themselves against all odds…women who broke stereotypes and faced hard times for stepping into positions that were mainly occupied by males at the time. Now these visionary women holding these important positions have proved that they can also contribute significantly to our country’s politics.

We also worked with other strong women who introduced all of us to important subjects, like the important role that fundraising plays while running for office, as well as the significance that the media has for any political campaign. We received media training prior to our on-camera interviews. We also participated in a public speaking workshop where we had the opportunity to learn the basic concepts and the impact that well-made speeches have in political campaigns. My favorite event was the networking party in which we met with professionals with elite careers there in the D.C. area.

My entire experience was amazing, but for me the most important thing was to have the opportunity to talk with strong girls like me. Girls who are not afraid to speak their minds and are willing to work hard for good causes. I created strong friendships that still last to this date. I learned a lot from these girls and for me that is priceless. The staff was also memorable. Susannah Shakow certainly did care about all of us and it showed. I admire her for what she does in encouraging young women to start making a difference now.

My participation in this excellent program helped me feel more confident in who I am, and gave a clear direction in what I have to do in order to achieve my goals in creating a positive change to my Latino community. I now know that my projects can create positive changes one step at a time. Running Start also taught me a valuable lesson about the important role that women play in office, and how crucial it is for the future of this nation to have more representation of women in office in order to improve our country’s politics. I learned that it is never too soon to take action and age does not matter for us young leaders!

I hope this program can continue to provide this amazing opportunity to other proactive young girls like me.

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