As a senior at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, Jessica Lopez held leadership positions in numerous clubs and organizations on campus. She understood the importance of being a role model, and she knew that she wanted to make a difference in the world, but she didn’t know exactly how.
When her friend Felicia recommended PLEN to her, Jessica brushed it off, thinking that she wouldn’t learn anything from a policy seminar as a business management major. However, when she learned about the Women Unlocking Nonprofits seminar, she knew she had to apply. Even though she wasn’t a political science major, she knew this seminar would help her figure out how to combine her interests in organizational management and social responsibility. She had no idea she would leave with a passion for politics and policy.
Jessica’s friend Felicia not only encouraged Jessica to apply to PLEN, but also helped her prepare for the interview with PLEN Member Representative Rosalyn Kempf, who is the Director of Women’s Leadership at Mount Saint Mary’s University and on the PLEN Board of Directors. “It was the hardest interview I’ve ever done,” Jessica said as one the first business majors from MSMU to attend a PLEN seminar. “Because I took a drama class in high school, I looked calm, but I was not!” Jessica remembers. She left knowing that even if she didn’t get the scholarship, she had given it her all.
Jessica’s passion, motivation, and eagerness to learn impressed Rosalyn, who awarded her with a full scholarship to attend the Women Unlocking Nonprofits seminar in 2016.
As a business major, Jessica was already familiar with organizational structure and networking, but attending PLEN opened up a whole new world for her. “PLEN was the beginning for me,” she says. “It really was the catalyst for where I am now.” At the PLEN seminar, her interest and work in business and social responsibility manifested in a new dream: running a nonprofit. Additionally, PLEN empowered Jessica to be an even better mentor to others in her community.
One of Jessica’s biggest takeaways from PLEN was this question that she is constantly asking herself: what information am I learning, and how am I sharing it with the people around me? As a first-generation college student, she is grateful for the people around her who encouraged her to take advantage of opportunities like PLEN. Now, Jessica strives to be that person for younger students. With PLEN, she learned what being successful looks like in different parts of the country, in different industries, and for different people, and left knowing that she needed to share this information with others.
After returning to MSMU, Jessica continued to get involved and connect with others, which led to an opportunity to volunteer on a local political campaign. Campaign work has become one of her favorite ways to get involved, and she sees it as the perfect opportunity to encourage others to get involved, too. She became the volunteer coordinator for a candidate running for Assembly in California, which allowed her to recruit, train, and mentor campaign volunteers. This experience was life-changing for her, and not only led to other professional opportunities on her own career path, but allowed her to empower others in her community to get involved in the political process.
“I came back from PLEN knowing that I can be an agent of change. We all came back empowered.” Now, as an agent of change, Jessica focuses on helping those around her. In her free time, she continues to volunteer on campaigns and uses it as an opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders. Earlier this year, she mentored a 14-year-old and invited her to join her on a campaign to introduce her mentee to different types of careers and how important it is to be civically engaged. Just as her friends and mentors helped open her eyes to different opportunities in the world, she is reaching out to the next generation to inspire and empower.
Hayley Humiston is the Programs and Communications Manager for PLEN, where her main focus is to plan the logistics of each seminar. She is also responsible for marketing, communications, and social media outreach.