Gabriela Ballesteros, Student, Class of 2019 Global Politics & Health Care Policy Double Major, Mount Saint Mary’s University
June 28, 2017
I completed my first marathon at the age of thirteen. I cannot remember why I did it - I just did. I joined Students Run Los Angeles because it was the only club offered at my school during that time. I just knew I had to but a part of something bigger than myself. That ambition and mindset that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to followed me throughout high school and in my transition to college. I jumped at every extracurricular and leadership role that was offered at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles. This led me to join the Leadership Scholar Program through the Women’s Leadership and Student Involvement Office.
The Leadership Scholar Program has contributed to my growth as a student and civic leader. Within the first year of the program, I learned about my leadership style and how there is no one type of leadership. I consider myself to be a servant leader. I want to be a leader who not only grows but makes sure that the people around them are growing and practicing their best skills to work for the common interest. My university has offered me endless opportunities for leadership where I can exhibit my skills - from being a Resident Assistant to taking on the role as an Orientation Assistant planning programs for new students. Because of the Mount, I’ve learned that there is no shortage of greatness if we empower women and provide them with meaningful roles to showcase their leadership.
This past semester, I participated in Alternative Spring Break. As students, we did not need to go abroad to make an impact on a community. We were able to get involved in our very own county of Los Angeles around the issue of homelessness. The week-long service was centered in the downtown area and we eventually ended in Skid Row, volunteering at the L.A Mission. We also visited the St. Joseph Center that was founded by our own sisters, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. This week shed a whole new light on homelessness. I realized there is much work to be done, including the creation of policy. Months after that week ended, I am still feeling the lasting effects of this program. Because of my experience in Alternative Spring Break, I am conscientious about stereotypes and approach the homeless in my area differently that I did before. Civic leadership training extends beyond the classroom and has an effect in our everyday lives.
In late May, I attended the Public Leadership Education Network’s Women in Global Policy seminar. The week-long seminar allowed me to take a sneak peek of what it’s like to work in government and foreign policy-making. One of the highlights of my trip was when I visited the Rayburn House Office Building to listen to a panel of incredible women on the topic of what it’s like to work on Capitol Hill. In that moment, I felt like I belonged. For some reason, when hearing the different rings that indicated the floor votes, I felt this surge of excitement. The once abstract thought of working in Washington D.C. became real once I witnessed these women doing what seemed unfeasible to me as a college student.
One of the lessons that I took away from the seminar was that I could be a civic leader through policy-making. I first need to continue listening and seeing what issues my community faces in order to engage in meaningful and impactful ways. It is important to be an active citizen in this ever changing world because we are all connected as human beings. Each community faces problems and individuals should work together as a collective unit to help create a sustainable world. Through the experience of this trip and how I have grown as a leader at my university, I realize that there needs to be more women and people of color in office. I know at some point I would like to run for office and when I do, it will be my new marathon and a different kind of running.
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