PLEN Inspires You to Continue Striving

img_5656Karina Rodriguez Torres, Graduate Student, California State University of San Bernardino

I attended a summit at the University of Virginia on Memory, Mourning, Mobilization: Legacies of Slavery and Freedom in America in September 2016 because the topics of oppression and slavery intrigue me.   My friend from UC Berkeley recently moved to Washington D.C for work.  Since I was at the summit in Virginia, we decided to meet up in Washington D.C for a few hours.   I had lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is not too far from Washington D.C and did not like Charlottesville, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Washington D.C as a diverse city.   I, then, recalled that Grace Lee, UC Irvine’s Pre-Law programs coordinator,  had  emailed me the Public Leadership Education Network’s (PLEN) Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar  a few months ago.    I remembered that the PLEN event was located in Washington D.C.  Since I enjoyed my time at Washington, D.C and wanted to explore the city some more, I applied for the PLEN seminar.  I felt I needed to attend the Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar because I had just come from Sweden and South Africa and still felt the intense, burning desire for social justice.   South Africa opened my eyes to the atrocities of globalization.  At the PLEN seminar, I wanted to connect with educational advocates and international lawyers as well as students who have similar passions as me.  

The PLEN seminar exceeded my expectations because I met extraordinary individuals.   All the speakers exuded a peaceful, confidence and made themselves available for questions after the workshops.  I really enjoyed their transparency and suggestions.    The students also amazed me because they had phenomenal questions during the workshops.   I had the opportunity to meet passionate individuals, who also felt a burning desire to impact the world.  There was one student who reflected my story.  I was shocked that we had similar trajectories. I felt connected to individuals I had just meet a day ago.  We made the best of our extra time in the evenings as we explored Washington, D.C., visiting museums and monuments.  We ate at Mexican restaurants and giggled at tasting Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte for the first time.    We spoke about our dreams and sang to Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable.  We broke down racial stereotypes that had previously divided us.  We could not believe we stayed up so late in the morning and dreaded waking up in a few hours.  We left the seminar feeling blessed and content to have met extraordinary individuals who resonated with our view of the world and who will impact the world.

From the African American, female, lawyers, I learned to be fearless by taking back my power and speaking my truth.  I learned that being a woman of color leader is never easy, and this is okay. Hearing their struggles made the fight relatable.  PLEN gave me the needed encouragement to continue making an impact in this world.  For those students who are not sure about attending a PLEN seminar, I would suggest to you to dare big and apply.  You will meet individuals, lobbyists, advocates, and lawyers who will have a lasting impact on you.  Your uncertainties and worries will be addressed. You will expand your visions and networks.  Future women leaders, we are in it together.