(half body hot) Zoe Heath with her pride shirt and right hand holding a paper and speaking in front of the standing microphone

When I was fifteen, I saw an ad on Facebook for a Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. Finishing my freshman year, I was excited to learn about Girl Up. As I read more about it, I was ecstatic that a teenager like myself could actively participate in making a difference. Soon after, I convinced my father to take a road trip.

Days one and two were full of excitement. We attended so many different panels on the Sustainable Development Goals, women in business, confidence, and most importantly, leadership. Admittedly, the highlight from those first two days was watching First Lady Michelle Obama, the keynote speaker, present, as well as listening to young women from across the globe, who I was lucky enough to meet.

Four years ago, someone asked: How many of you want to run for office? Dozens of hands went up, but mine stayed down. Since then, my goals have changed.

Day three, however, was my favorite. It was Lobby Day, where all Leadership Summit attendees went to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and advocate for girls’ rights and education worldwide. It was something of a dream; I had never advocated for myself, let alone girls from all across the world whom I had never met.

I returned to Vernon Township High School in New Jersey determined and energized after the Summit. I started a club, not a Girl Up club as I had originally planned, but a Gay-Straight Alliance, which was a much-needed safe space for LGBTQ+ students and their allies.  In the three years I was president, the club grew to have 30+ members. As I got older and bolder, I led student walkouts and live-streamed local board of education meetings. I organized and spoke at rallies. I served as Vice President of Sussex County’s National Organization for Women, and a local newspaper labelled me as a Teen to Watch. I became a force of nature. Four years ago, as I sat in a fancy hotel in our nation’s capital, one of the speakers asked a question. How many of you want to run for office? Dozens of hands went up, but mine stayed down. Since then, my goals have changed.

In my time as an activist these past four years, I have found that change starts at home. That is why, at nineteen years old, just out of high school I am running for Board of Education in my town. Besides, as the activists of Girl Up know so well, the youth are our future. 

Zoe Heath is a 2018 Girl Up Leadership Summit attendee

Share

Give to Girl Up

Your support of our girl changemakers means Girl Up can continue to work toward a world where girls have equal value, opportunity, and the chance to reach their fullest potential. You can make a difference in the life of a girl by donating today.

How to Get Involved

All around the world, our network of a million supporters is mobilizing for gender equality. Will you stand with us?

  1. (close shot) a girl with big glasses on and a big smile
    Give

    Donate or partner with us to mobilize changemakers everywhere.

    Ways to Support
  2. a phone is holding an iPhone and looking down at her phone
    Get Social

    Follow us on Instagram.

    Follow Us
  3. a girl who is looking down and using her finger to scrolling the phone
    Subscribe

    Sign up to get the latest news and happenings in Girl Up’s movement.

    Subscribe
  4. a girl with big smile on her face wearing Gril Up t-shirt (close shot)
    Join our Movement

    Join tens of thousands of changemakers from 120 countries and all 50 U.S. states.

    Start a Club
  5. two girls are smiling and writing down notes and sharing a laptop
    Explore the Issues

    All issues are gender equality issues.

    Learn More
  6. Ayanna Pressley speaking on the #girlhero event
    Upcoming Events

    Get involved at an event near you.

    Learn More

Close Overlay