Monday, September 24, 2018

The HERlead convention

A guest blog written by 2017 National Young Woman of Distinction, Lea Bonner

The HERlead convention, a fellowship that provides young women with mentors, leadership training and so much more, in New York City from June 26th-29th was an experience I will never forget. I learned amazing leadership skills from female leaders from companies such as Ascena, Ann Taylor LOFT, Lou & Grey, and NBC Universal. Hearing from these inspiring women about their experiences in the workplace made the other girls and me feel more confident in ourselves and our future. 

HERlead was put on by Ascena brands and Vital Voices. The program receives many applications and only has a 2% acceptance rate, with 30 girls out of 900 applicants being chosen. It is for rising junior and senior high school girls who have a desire to change a problem in their community. I believe I was chosen for several reasons. I think Girl Scouts being on my application showed my leadership skills and my belief in the power of girls and women which increased my chances of being accepted. I also think I was chosen because my Gold Award project focused on the environment, one of the four categories for HERlead- others being human rights, politics, and education. Additionally, I am planning to start a sustainable t-shirt company that promotes saving oyster shells. I can receive a grant to fund this project and I plan on donating the proceeds to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation which showed the panel of applicant reviewers that I am determined to continue impacting my community in a positive way.

While at the leadership summit, we were paired with mentors to inspire and teach us ways to create and execute our plans of action in our community. My mentor was Panmela Castro, a Brazilian woman who used her experience with domestic violence to shed light on the issue of dating violence by spray painting murals in Brazil. She holds workshops for young adults and teenagers to help them identify the signs of domestic violence and avoid it. Her workshop participants go on to design and spray paint murals in their co

mmunities to continue the work she started. She is an amazing artist who used her negative experience and turned it into a positive impact within her community.

The convention provided the participants with an amazing hotel in Times Square, meals, activities, and HERlead merchandise. We went shopping at the LOFT Times Square store with a $150 gift card given to each of us, went on a double decker bus tour of New York City and Brooklyn, and toured NBC studios. I met fellow girl leaders from Canada, California, and even a girl from Norfolk, Va! It was awesome to have someone from home with me and grow closer to her. We heard from amazing speakers and had Social media and public speaking training. This fellowship and leadership summit has taught me so much and I was lucky to attend.