As the president of my college campus's Generation Action chapter, I and the rest of the exec. board (my lovely friends Michaela, Kayla, and Emily) were invited to Washington, D.C. for Planned Parenthood's Generation Action national youth conference.
It was incredible and inspiring, empowering and enlightening, to be surrounded by over 400 activists and leaders who are all concerned with same issue -- reproductive justice -- and all the many, many facets related to such a complex issue. The conference spanned four days, with activities ranging from guest speakers (such as Sen. Elizabeth freaking Warren!!!!) to workshops (such as, "Beyond Choice: Reproductive Justice 101" and "The Importance of Public Policy and Advocacy: Advancing the Issues You Care About") to a day spent lobbying with each state's senators and representatives.
Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, one of the co-creators of the Carry That Weight movement on the Columbia University campus, led a discussion on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses nationwide and how we can most effectively utilize social media in bringing about awareness and affecting change at a specific dinner centered on strategizing with peers. It was just so definitively cool to be able to talk with girls from all over the country on how our experiences differ along our fight for the same thing. I knew I'd come away from the conference with ideas, but I couldn't take notes fast enough as we exchanged stories about different events held and actions taken that we can share from campus to campus.
It was sometime in my high school career that I first went to my local Planned Parenthood for a check up; my regular doctor isn't a gynecologist and I just felt like I needed some specific questions answered. I was struck by how pleasant the experience was over all, how friendly and helpful the staff was -- it was comfortable, from the waiting room to the check out desk, the entire facility felt accepting and reassuring. Every time I've ever visited a clinic has been a positive experience -- I've even had direct responses from the Planned Parenthood account on twitter before the social media importance push that now has every company with interns specifically dedicated to replying to all tweets, all day. This is a company that has always been there for me and to be encouraged by them as a young leader in my community means the world to me.
The Generation Action conference invigorated me; there are students all over the country taking action in their lives and on their campuses and I can't wait to get to work alongside them. Our generation will make up 40% of the voting population in 2020 -- that is a lot of power. It means a great deal that Planned Parenthood has invested so much in supporting young people because we are the future and we can get shit done. Start conversation! Support your local women's health center! I've really realized the importance of making your voice heard, whether your deal is rallying on campus or lobbying state government. Speaking out makes a difference.