• Janice K. Lee

Leading the Next Generation with GirlUp || WASHINGTON, D.C.

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

GirlUp Leadership Summit (7.8.18-7.11.18)


Let me start off by saying the second most common phrase- "time flies by when you're having fun" (the first would be "it's the best thing since sliced bread!"). I recently attended a leadership summit in Washington, DC with members of the Girl Up club at my school. Everyone was so exited, and likewise, we all didn't know what to expect. And as the title states, it was a leadership summit, which meant there would be loads of inspirational speakers and leaders, and even some famous people, who would present their god-blessed talent of public speaking (on a far-superior level). After five hours of driving with eight people from New Jersey to DC, Washington felt like the freshest breath of air I had ever breathed. We stayed in one of the largest hotels I have seen in my life, and I eagerly waited for the next day to begin, the official start of the summit. (I spent the rest of the night in bed watching Kingsman, Secret Service.)

The summit was filled with speakers that captivated my every second. They reminded me how far my potential and powers reach. All of the stories and work that the speakers were

sharing inspired me beyond words. One of the speakers included Joan Smalls, talked about entrepreneurship and her journey of creating her own swimwear to empower women. Alyssa Carson, the "NASA Blueberry", was a strikingly youthful and accomplished astronaut in training who explored the endeavors and challenges of conquering space at a young age.

During the summit, everyone received brochures that included schedules and a blank page for notes; one of the quotes stuck with me, which I hurriedly jotted down in a corner. CNN Journalist Isha Sesay said at one point "Girls all have the same high dreams, but not the same opportunity", which initiated within me an entire thought process of how reality revolves.


One of the most memorable speakers of the first day was Monique Coleman (who many remember as the beloved Taylor McKessie in High School Musical), who presented her

honest struggles of reaching her goals and inner happiness- it's hard to express her ignition from stage onto an online text, but believe me, I was holding back tears through her emotional words and humane statements. Coleman's speech wasn't intended to be inspirational, but her words carried such a level of what we call "emotional intelligence" that it rather reminded me that I wasn't alone in my bumpy roads and loneliness. Not only was the summit one treat of an enrichment, but the time spent outside of the Ronald Reagan building (the official summit location) was just as exuberant. Walking in the streets of DC was one of the most relaxing feelings. It was a much cleaner version of New York, but just as filled with energy and excitement. In addition, breakfast and lunch was provided by the program, so you couldn't feel guilty splurging for dinner (you can bet I got dessert somewhere along the way). 


Tuesday was the second official day of the trip. One of the speakers were Brooklyn & Bailey, twins who owns and runs their own Mascara company- being highly interested in entrepreneurship, I enjoyed hearing their agenda and insight that I found valuable.

Definitely, it would be just as valuable as hearing men talking about their own 'blank'-company, but sometimes, having the assurance that other girls and women are making names and titles for themselves is a unique kind of a feeling that somehow exhilarates me. It's like a "broskis", but I have always believed that the connection between girls and other girls are stronger- so, "girlkis", would it be called? [I considered "siskis" but that sounds less cool]

Undeniably, the highlight of my trip was going to the Washington Monument tour with friends I had gotten so dear to. I hadn't been to Washington in quite some time, so being back 'home' with amazing people felt like cloud 9. I would say more, but some things are just better left in sweet memories and pictures rather than describing the entire thing. So enjoy the 6 out of the 132 pictures that were taken. 

The last part of the summit was lobby day, where everyone assembled with people from the same state. Being from New Jersey, everyone from the club and a few other Jerseyans came together and planned for the first bit of the morning. The rest was fairly interesting. I had a general idea of what it was going to be like, but then again, I wouldn't know until it happened. It was a lot calmer than I thought it would be (Capitol Hill was less crowded than the NJ State building).

The moments I remember most is when we were on a lunch break after talking to Booker's office. A girl approached me and said "Hey, I just wanted to say that you were really cool

back at Booker's office. You really stood out when you were talking. Do you do Model UN or something?" And those words moved me a lot, and I chatted with her about doing the clubs, aspirations, and that sort of jist. It made me so excited to know someone looked up to me. It made me wonder just how much two-and-a-half years of debate has shaped my words. The other memorable moment was our visit to Leonard Lance's office. Unlike the other representatives and senators, he was there in person and focused less about the issues we were advocating for, and wanted more to chat with us. He gave us a tour of his office as well, and that's all I will say about that matter (you can search him up and judge for yourself). Overall, the people and staff members I met during the visit were very experienced people who I genuinely enjoyed talking and asking questions to. [Oh, by the way, I had Dunkin Donuts iced coffee during one of our breaks- it was so sugary that I will never buy it again.] Because I have been writing for so long while I should have been doing college applications, I will conclude with this: the trip was more about meeting new people and gaining experiences more than anything else. The entire summit was centered around the idea of listening, meeting, and getting closer to people to make memories, empower yourself, and just having a blast. To be honest, anything coming for me in the future will have a hard time topping the fun hours I had at this event. It had been a while since making new friends from scratch.

The interesting thing is, not all people are good at meeting new people. I can say that I have not always been such a social person myself (well, to some extent). But I recently read a book that showed me an entirely new world, a book that changed the way I saw things (for those interested, it's called Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards). As I grow older and put myself forward in internships, college, and jobs, I need to culture my social skills. Reading this book gave me the one ingredient to my personal success: confidence and politeness. This trip is a personal testimony. There were 400 girls at the summit from 25 countries- I wanted to make new friends and meet new people. Approaching people and spreading positivity and confidence is​ your greatest asset. It's your greatest friend. Cherish it. Because it will open so many doors and opportunities. So take advantage of it. And enjoy life while it lasts, because nothing lasts forever. Thank you for reading.


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About the Author

Janice Lee is a Sophomore studying Marketing, Accounting, and Entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School. When she's not looking at business plans, she's most likely on her Oculus Go, experimenting to brew the best iced coffee, or writing about it.

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