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From interviewing Monique Coleman to advocating on Capitol Hill: #TeamStrong member Shea tells us about her time at the 2018 Girl Up Leadership Summit.

By: Shea Williams, Team Strong, Australia

My time at the Girl Up Leadership Summit is hard to sum up in a few paragraphs as it was such an incredible experience. Almost from the moment you arrive you are constantly busy; whether it is participating in workshops, listening to empowering speakers or just mingling with fellow attendees. As the Summit’s duration is only three and a half days, you find yourself wishing that it could go on for at least another week as there are just too many amazing people to meet!

I was fortunate enough to be selected as a member of Team Strong, a group of six girls from around the world, who got to have behind-the-scenes experiences and some extra perks during the Summit programming. As soon as the six of us met, it was like catching up with old friends. We went for pizza on the Sunday before official programming began, then a quick wander around the astonishing memorials and monuments that Washington D.C has to offer. After becoming acquainted, and our brief sightseeing, we had a photoshoot by Special K with Ksenia Avdulova who is definitely someone we all look up to; before our onstage moments she certainly helped us all stay cool, calm and collected!

On Monday, my fellow Team Strong members and I had more photos taken while also starting off the day with interviews by Special K on what we thought was important concerning health and wellness in today’s youth. At the end of the day I got to interview Monique Coleman after she delivered her tear-inducing speech to the Summit attendees. It was interesting to see and hear an inspiring figure from the distance, then speak to them face-to-face. I was certainly ecstatic to interact with such a genuine role-model that millions of young people, girls specifically, have looked up to for such a long time.

Tuesday offered another unique and exciting day of programming, including the chance to receive tips from Brooklyn and Bailey on how to become young entrepreneurs and start our own businesses or programs. It is encouraging to listen to people your own age and how, despite their youth, they’ve already been able to make an impact on the world around them.

Summit attendees then got to state our opinions on Wednesday, concerning the USA’s laws on female education and keeping refugee families together. We did this by going to Capitol Hill and talking to Senators or House Representatives about why it is important to improve legislation in these areas. It is empowering to know that we have a voice, and that politicians are willing to listen to our concerns. My group also toured the building, meaning we were led through the underground tunnels and even ran into Maxine Waters! This was our final day of the Summit and after a successful day of lobbying we, sadly, had to say goodbye to all the amazing people we had met.

All of these wonderful experiences were made even better by my fellow Team Strong members who helped me feel immediately comfortable, despite it being my fist Summit and first time in Washington D.C. So thank you to my fellow attendees for making this Summit such a memorable experience, and to my other Team Strong members for becoming my international sisters!

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