Lessons from the Girl Up Leadership Summit

On the steps of the U.S. Capitol!

I have been honored to serve as a Teen Advisor and a Co-Chair of the 2012-2013 Teen Advisor class for roughly 688 days (or 17,250 hours or 1,051,200 minutes). I have spent a fair number of those days travelling around the country with Girl Up – from San Francisco, my very first trip as a Teen Advisor, to New York City, where I will go to an event on Girl Up's behalf over the summer. On these trips and the monthly Teen Advisor conference calls, I've learned more than I ever thought possible about girls' lives in developing countries and the obstacles they face when obtaining the same opportunities Americans have.

It's interesting to reflect on my learning curve over the past two years; at first, I was concerned with absorbing as much information as I could about the issues and memorizing dozens of facts and figures (one in seven girls in developing countries is married before the age of fifteen, only two cents of every development dollar goes to girls – I could go on and on). Recently, though, now that I'm confident in my knowledge and can hold my own in most conversations about girls and women around the globe, I've turned my attention to the lessons that aren't so easily learned.

My time at the 2013 Leadership Summit was filled with such lessons. We heard from a variety of women such as Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama's chief of staff, Patty Padilla, the UN Foundation's event planner, and Monique Coleman, former High School Musical star and founder of GimmeMo, a community where young people discuss issues impacting their communities.

A common theme across all of their presentations was accepting failure, something that I find especially difficult. It was relieving to hear that many of these inspiring women believed that they had failed more often than they had succeeded; my slipups, errors and disasters might even be beneficial, they told me. As I enter the college application process this summer, the potential of failure is more pressing than ever before. The guidance that I heard in the past few days will help me immensely.

I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to attend both the 2012 and 2013 Leadership Summits; I've learned so much and met so many wonderful people. I can't wait for 2014!

Emily

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