My name is Yordanos Alemu Kiros and I am a first-year student at Luther College. I learned about PLEN seminars through one of my friends on campus who encouraged me to apply and other friends who had attended the program in previous years. When I reached out to them, they told me how life changing the experience was. The seminar interested me and I decided to apply; however, I was hesitant that the costs of staying in DC for a week would have been very high. Through doing research and checking the PLEN website, I learned that there was an opportunity for a scholarship, and I could not have been any happier. I immediately filled out my application that same day.
Although, I am a business management and data science major, I have always believed that, as youth, we contribute to the political system one way or another. Therefore, participating in politics and making policies directly affect us. I decided to attend the Women in Congress seminar in order to learn about potential career options that would align with both my academic and personal interests.
As a PLEN alumna, I can honestly say that the seminar far exceeded all of my expectations. I was given the chance to explore a new city I always dreamed of visiting. Over the course of five days, I was given the opportunity to meet accomplished women who are determined and ambitious like me. I met incredible women, fellow participants as well as speakers, and gained valuable skills such as how to network, and negotiate a salary. The people and the experience changed my whole perspective on what I want to do in the future. I think the best part of my experience, was the lecture on the first day in the George Washington University, where Grace Boat did her presentation on Networking 101. In this presentation I learned how to network and a lot of advice. In her keynote address, Grace said, “Always be the most authentic self.” This brought to my attention that in any environment I find myself in, it is okay for me to be the best version of myself possible. She also said, “perfection is not desirable nor attainable.” This reminded me that no matter how hard I try, I will not be perfect and that is perfectly fine. These statements gave me the motivation I needed to not give up on myself and my community.
The seminar was insightful and engaging. I was exposed to a variety of political leadership careers. I had the honor of meeting with female Congressional and Executive Branch leaders, their staff, and other policy-oriented professionals. Several of the speakers were previous PLEN participants and all were engaged, enthusiastic, and supportive. It was so empowering! We heard presentations on how congress really works, careers in energy, environment, and transportation policy, healthcare implementation policy, and congressional rules.
It was a great opportunity to understand what I might want for myself in the future and begin building my connections. I had the opportunity to meet, learn about, and converse with such inspirational women, who both did, and did not attain a law degree. This made me realize that there is no one path for success. Also, there are women like me who were not necessarily pursuing a political science degree, but still managed to find a way to incorporate their knowledge and interests into a political career.
I was able to learn from so many amazing women in a wide variety of career paths and hear about new opportunities I had never before been exposed to. The seminar definitely challenged me in different ways and made me more aware of the of the different opportunities that the world has to offer. This seminar opened my eyes to the inner workings of Washington DC and offered me an opportunity I would have never received if it were not for this amazing organization. I have made friends for life. PLEN helped me to recognize the potential in myself to go above and beyond to achieve my goals. After this seminar, I returned to campus overwhelmed with enthusiasm and an increased level of confidence in myself and my abilities.
Yordanos Alemu Kiros is a first-year student at Luther College studying data science and business management. She is passionate about community-led business initiatives, global politics, and languages. Yordanos attended the PLEN Women and Congress seminar in March 2019.