Attending the PLEN seminar on health and policy in Washington, DC, was an excellent opportunity to expand my knowledge of health and its approach. The Seminar would not have been possible without the immense support of the Ellie Shaw Scholarship. PLEN was a thoughtful experience, especially during the running start ElectHer session. This particular session was what I considered the wake-up call of the seminar. Attending and participating in this specific session significantly impacted what I want to do for my life tomorrow. It was a great moment to reflect and be mindful of each step I have taken in my life and its effect. Running Start did not only train me on how to run for student government but also reminded me of my mission as a young Black girl living in a male-dominated society. The opportunity to think about one particular issue I care the most about was the most challenging part because we always want to change more than one issue in our community. Ending up with only one point that means most to me and finding a personal connection to the issue made me think a lot about my goals for life and how much dedication I have for the particular matter. It became a mindful moment of what I am doing today in my life about what I like and what I do not like. This time, I figured out which issues I wanted to solve first despite the fear that was trying to limit me not to find my path and the dedication I have for the problem. Running Start exercise allowed me to wisely utilize my time mindfully in a world with limited resources and focus on the process with the expectation that everything will happen successfully. This session taught me how to stand up for myself and use my voice as a tool for the change I want to see tomorrow and not give up on my dedication until I win. More importantly, talking to speakers taught me that I will never finish without consistency; therefore, I must not give up because nothing is easy to get, and expertise comes from experience.
Nevertheless, participating in the simulation session was educational. I was able to learn more about decision-making and how important it is to be mindful of the group of people who will be affected. Having to assimilate ourselves into different organizations was a significant moment because I could interchange from always being the victim to the decision-maker. Before then, I used to think that it was always easy to make decisions during critical times in the world; however, that experience proved the opposite. I realized everything was about the process and understanding everyone, which was the most challenging part of the simulation. I sat at a table of a varied group of individuals, which was the most critical part because I learned from people built with different perspectives to come up with only one suitable solution, at least for most people. Discussing with various groups of people was a captivating experience due to different backgrounds of people meeting together to make valuable decisions because we all had different experiences that would have impacted our decision-making. As a result, I am continually thankful for every moment I shared with incredible people in the PLEN seminar. I am again motivated to see young leaders, women, and marginalized gender groups keep on meeting together to dismantle any negative stereotype that could cause an obstacle to success. I admired the talent of each individual in the room. I appreciated the effort everyone was willing to bring to the table to fight and support human dignity and equal access to resources.
Esther Bitijula is a current sophomore at Luther College double majoring in Psychology and Social Work, and, working on a minor in Counseling. Esther attended the Fall 2022 Health Policy Seminar, and received the Ellie Shaw Scholarship.