INSPIRE is a leadership program that has provided me with the opportunity to gain the confidence and knowledge that I need to express my voice in the community. It has given me a direct channel through which I can reach out to other people and make an impact by way of volunteering and research.
I have been asked several times to define what leadership means, but I have never been able to give a concrete answer because I think that it encompasses a wide range of adjectives from inspiring, role modeling and influencing. It also varies on the context with which one defines it. I am a considered a leader in my house because I am a first-generation college student and hold a great deal of responsibility to complete my education.
On the other hand, I am considered a leader in my management class' group project because I am good at delegating tasks and generating new ideas for the group. I think that INSPIRE has taught me to have this type of perspective on leadership by allowing me to realize that leadership has a lot to do with having an open mind toward accepting and understanding the differences in our community. I also feel that it is important to acknowledge your own capabilities, so that you may lead others with integrity.
The INSPIRE program has allowed me to explore the differences in our world and gain an interest in a wide variety of subjects. During my first year in the program, the INSPIRE members had the opportunity to take improv classes at The Hideout Theatre, so that we could get to know each other better and open up a space for honest communication with each other.
I continued to make an impact the following semester by volunteering with the Theatre Action Project and learning how social change can be started by fostering creativity and knowledge in children throughout Austin. This year, I was able to conduct a research study about the human trafficking problem affecting Cambodia and was able to present it at the Annual Women's and Gender Studies Conference.
Along with all of these opportunities, we also have discussions about several issues that are affecting women in the world, those issues that question the norms of society and allow you to think differently. These real world experiences have helped me gain an advantage in the classroom setting here at UT and create meaningful relationships with my peers, advisers and professors.
The people who have been a part of this program have encouraged me to think not only my about my future, but also about the future of our communities. I feel honored that they have invested time and dedication to my future so that I may one day be able to project my knowledge outward by providing the community with the tools necessary for social change.
I would like to thank those who have given me the motivation to succeed and challenge myself: Dr. Susan Heinzelman, Nancy Ewert, Ganiva Reyes, Lydia Putnam, Juan Portillo, Lynn Bradshaw, the Women's and Gender Studies Community Advisory Board members and all of the women of INSPIRE.