Washington County Community College Student Reflects on Women’s Leadership Program
When we think about people that we regard as leaders, it is often their confidence, established poise, or their unflappable grace under pressure that comes to mind. What we may not consider is how those leaders attained the qualities that enable them to effectively contribute and shape our communities.
Last year, Washington County Community College student Skye Green participated in Maine NEWL, a five-day intensive workshop designed to provide undergraduate women with the opportunity to develop effective leadership skills for public service. The workshop, which is organized by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center in conjunction with the University of Maine, is held annually in Orono, and it typically hosts about two dozen women from colleges and universities across the state.
“I’ve always had a strong interest in public policy and, especially with the area, helping to decrease poverty and introduce new outlets for information and help,” Green said. “Hearing about Maine NEWL was a push for me to start trying to make a difference.”
While she was drawn to the program for a number of reasons, Green recalls doubting that she would be accepted. Her mother provided her with the courage to apply, and soon she received the news that she would be attending. When it came time to leave her young daughter for almost a week, she nearly backed out, but she reminded herself that it was something that “would be really good for both her and I.”
Upon arriving, Green candidly described herself as being “terrified”. Within an hour of meeting the other attendees, however, she realized that “every other woman in that room felt the same way.” The participants bonded quickly over their shared fears, and a few icebreakers enabled Green to see how much she had in common with her classmates.
Over the next five days, Green and her fellow participants met with distinguished speaker after distinguished speaker, giving them the opportunity to project their own abilities and reflect on themselves as individuals. “I can’t begin to express how much I was able to learn from just listening to these women talk about their experiences with their communities, working in office, working with public policy and government regulations, and speaking on international affairs.”
Though the speakers and workshop sessions were a major part of the conference, Green also accompanied the group to the state house in Augusta—marking her first time visiting the capitol building. “I was able to sit in rooms and listen to panels where the House and Senate actually vote. Talk about feeling like your voice is heard.”
Another highlight of the conference was visiting the Islamic Center of Maine, an experience that Green describes as powerful and eye-opening. “I had the belief for a long time that women in that religion were very oppressed, but it was truly enlightening to hear of the laws set in place to protect their women,” she recalls. “I think it’s always important, and honestly sometimes crucial, to step out of our realm of thinking and look into that of another culture or religion.”
Despite her initial nervousness toward the conference, by its conclusion Green was profoundly and positively affected. “I’ve always had a strong sense of wanting and needing more female leaders. The experience definitely helped motivate me and strengthen my beliefs,” she said. “I must also add that the experience taught me a lot about the challenges women are faced with when being and becoming someone of power.”
For her part, Green plans to incorporate what she has learned to build the Washington County community—aiming to increase its jobs, available programs, and resources for children. As a WCCC student majoring in Computer Science with a planned minor in Political Science, Green is passionate about becoming a network administrator, ideally for a nonprofit organization. In the future, she may consider running for public office. “I have a strong love for community and politics, and I definitely plan to apply them to my work as my life progresses.”
With the conference now behind her, Green recounts it as one of the best experiences she has ever had. “I met the most incredible women all around, and I was motivated and empowered beyond what I ever could have imagined,” she said. “I would really recommend it to all my female peers.”
Applications for the Maine NEWL 2017 session are being accepted until February 1st. All undergraduate students are invited to apply. There is no cost involved at any point in the process or the conference itself, with room and board provided throughout. Participants are eligible to receive transferable college credits through the University of Maine. For more information, visit https://mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu/for-students/maine-new-leadership/ or contact Director Mary Cathcart at firstname.lastname@example.org.