PLEN’S Impact: Victoria’s Experience at the 2022 Health Policy Seminar

PLEN's seminar on health and policy in Washington, DC, was a formative experience
that allowed me to further be able to define and visualize my future Public Health
career. Everything that this seminar had to offer me would not have been possible
without the generous support of the PJ Edington Scholarship.
Every panelist and
professional spoke with thoughtfulness and intention. It was inspiring to hear from
diverse groups of women who each play a role in improving and strengthening the role
of health and policy in society. This is especially important for first generation young
black and brown women like myself, who seek to open doors for other young black and brown women to come.

Over the course of the three days, I reflected and was mindful of every action I have taken in my life and its effect. It was reiterated to me over and over that I have the power to use my voice and to be fearless, even in male dominated spaces. Being in this space allowed me to network with an impressive group of students who all shared the conviction to make the world a better place. Having these personal connections provided me a moment to engage in so many meaningful conversations where I had the opportunity to exchange academic and career information with my peers. I felt as though I was learning so much from everyone, regardless of the scenario we were in. This was prevalent during our session in which we did a simulation activity in teams that required communication, negotiation, and the identification of common ground. Discussing international matters with various groups of people was a captivating experience due to individuals from a multitude of different backgrounds meeting together to make valuable, influential decisions. More so because we all had different experiences that would have impacted our decision-making.

As a result, I am extremely grateful for every moment I shared with incredible people in the PLEN seminar. I am once again motivated to see young leaders, women and marginalized gender groups alike, continuing on meeting together to dismantle any negative stereotypes and systems that could cause an obstacle to success. I cherished 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 rights and equal access to resources.

In my community, I strive to mirror the love, kindness, and hope that was cultivated in me by the women in my life. As a Psychology and Public Health double major, my coursework allows me to holistically delve into crucial topics, which I will utilize in my career. I aspire to implement effective methods and approaches that acknowledge the role of mental health in society, and address the impacts of health care inaccessibility for minority communities. Pursuing this scholarship will allow me to develop my professional aptitude and strengthen my character to be a reflection of the goals of public health: improving and protecting the health, safety, and security of populations. Competency when paired with empathy can create incredible strides in health settings. This is a belief I will continue to execute through the remainder of my academic trajectory.

Outside of the health field, I aspire to be an advocate for policy that will uplift minority identities and dismantle those aforementioned systems that have created inequity and enabled injustice. For instance, I have lobbied for policy that would create a more accessible pathway to citizenship for immigrants and have also participated in demonstrations and protests to end violence against women in Latin America. I aspire to continue to work on these projects at a larger scale.

Today, I am able to appreciate and respect my own power and womanhood. Because of my mother, I am not afraid to express myself and will always continue learning. Because of my mother, I know that I am a survivor and am more than the labels that society may give me. This same enlightenment is the experience I strive for other young women like me to have. We did not have the most desirable circumstances, we had to work harder than most, and perhaps at some point we did not feel secure in our femininity. But the narrative is yours. You have the authority to determine who you are and what you can accomplish.

Victoria Colon is a Junior at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta Georgia. She attended the 2022 Health Policy Seminar, and was the recipient of the PJ Edington Scholarship.

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