"March 5th Weekend" was how administrators referred to the Irish-spirited March celebration
Waking up Saturday morning, I knew my day was bound to be much different than the majority of my peers. I was not doused in green, blasting Dropkick Murphys, and strengthening myself to take jello shots at eight in the morning. Instead, I had to slip on a dress, tights, and flats - meanwhile repeating my elevator pitch over and over again in my head. March 5th Weekend had a different meaning for me, it was not a weekend dedicated to a Jason Derulo Concert or day drinking, but instead, for me, it was a networking weekend.
University of Massachusetts Amherst Women into Leadership Workshop Weekend; that's how my weekend can be summated. "UWiL" is dedicated to helping young women interested in the fields of public service, leadership, and politics. The workshop weekend had keynote speakers such as Secretary Lepore (State Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance under Governor Charlie Baker), Senator Flanagan (Chair of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee, Chair of the Joint Committee of Children and Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee, and Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction), and Representative Hogan (who has a commitment to providing resources for seniors in her communities, assistance to returning veterans, and the opportunity for a comprehensive education for all the children in her district and state) - just to name a few.
Myself, along with the other UWiL Fellows, had the opportunity to spend all weekend with these women, discussing how they act to increase the female voice in government and public service. During our workshop weekend we learned about the tiny representation that women make up in our government system; to date only forty-six women have ever served in the Senate; with twenty of them serving now. It was an incredible revelation knowing that our so-called progressive nation had so few women acting as part of the Senate. As women we make up approximately 51% of the population; how can this be? How can 51% of the population have their voices lessened in government in such a way and still suffer a wage gap?
UMASS UWiL works to learn about these questions and strives to help inspired members to someday be major actors in causing change to these disparities. The twenty women involved in the program were selected in a competitive application process; together we speak a multitude of languages, study a wide variety of majors, and take part in past-times such as band, sororities, rowing, and running. The diverse group of members not only learns from the public leaders they meet, but the driven peers they come in contact with - the environment created is friendly, comforting, and filled with shared passion.
Moral of my story? Join UWiL! As a transfer, I was overwhelmed when I first came to UMASS. My prior school only had about 8,000 undergrad, so coming to Amherst and being confronted with a sea of 20,000 in front of me I had no idea where to turn. Then I heard about the Women into Leadership Program. Don't get me wrong, I was intimidated as hell to apply, but after much coercing from my boy friend I decided to take a shot in the dark and apply - I am ecstatic that I did.
So yeah my "March 5th Weekend" may have been filled with handshakes, delivering shaky introductions to influential public figures, and listening to panels discuss fundraising, public speaking, and business etiquette, but I would not have had it any other way. I feel one step closer to pursuing my dream as a woman leader in politics, all thanks to this wonderful program that I was at first too intimidated to send my application to. This program has given me the courage to put myself out there - who knows maybe someday one of us will be standing, giving a speech with our sights toward the Reflecting Pool as the nation listens intently to what we have to say.