Student Spotlight: Zoe Craig goes to Washington

Surrounded by more than thirty millennial women, I sat in the heart of the Senate office building and participated in a mock committee meeting on clean air. It is with these women that I began to realize my true potential and, more importantly, my true worth. Our unique experience provides us with the tools to accurately represent everyone- as we are mothers, daughters, sisters, scientists, doctors, teachers, policymakers, and so much more. The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) provided me with the skills needed to empower myself and other women to make a difference.

Through PLEN’s Women and Congress Seminar, I learned practical skills like networking, resume building, and lobbying. During panel sessions, we were told the ins and outs of campaigning and the best way to ask people for money-- no matter how uncomfortable it may be. I learned the good, the bad, and the ugly about having a career on the hill, and then how to navigate the relationships made through positions similar to that. I was taught skills I didn’t know I lacked: salary negotiation, work and personal life balance, and job hunt.

Most importantly, I realized the significance of standing up for all women, despite their views. Women must be a part of the conversation before we can even begin to express opposing opinions, and that cannot happen when we stand against each other. We must realize we have the ability to influence policy and challenge the status quo. It’s time we stand up for ourselves, stand out against injustice, and run against those who resist inclusion. Women, like young people, have a marginalized voice in our society and the lessons I have learned can help both overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of success. Essentially, our voice is stronger when we use it collectively and we need to use that voice to create change.