For the first time ever, our Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) had a teenage fellow. Don’t let her years fool you. Though she is only eighteen, Monica Flores is wise beyond belief. A mother of a 3-year-old, she has been an activist for many years and currently works at the Center for Young Women’s Development, a grant partner.
For Monica, this past year as a fellow in WPI, a program that trains women in public policy and legislation, has been life changing. She was fresh out of high school, her son had turned 3 years old and she had just started attending the San Francisco City College when she was accepted into the program. Needless to say, she had a lot on her plate.
“I have grown and I have experienced many new things,” says Monica. “I was lucky that I’d had some previous training in policy advocacy. The WPI staff valued that as well as my personal knowledge and life experience. They trusted me with this opportunity and gave me the tools to do something most people never even imagine possible. I felt valued and empowered. I felt that my ideas were relevant.”
Monica learned a lot in the program, but the biggest lesson for her was learning to be confident in her knowledge, experience and expertise.
“I learned that I have choices. WPI gave me something I can’t put a value on, something internal that I can’t even describe. Of course, I learned about the policy process (how slow, political and difficult it can be), but I also learned a lot more than that.
“I learned how to act and present myself in order to get people to hear my voice (and through me, the voices of people I represent) and I got to build a lot of important relationships. It now feels good going to the capitol with my organization and saying hello to staffers and legislators, or getting stopped for information. I learned that I’m really as knowledgeable as people try to convince me that I am.”
It’s heartwarming to see a young woman so confident in her skills and abilities. She has many plans for her future now that she has completed her WPI fellowship and her plans involve sharing her knowledge and skills with others:
“I am at a transitional point in my life and I want to take all the skills, both external and internal, and pass them on to my peers, co-workers, and people that I meet. I’ve also recommended a few people to apply for the WPI. The last thing I’d want to do is keep everything I’ve gained from this fellowship to myself. The skills that I’ve learned are ones that are instilled so deep that I don’t mind sharing because no one can ever take them away from me, and I really, really appreciate that.”
Thank you, Monica, for being an inspiration to us all. Best of luck to you! We know you will accomplish great things!
Additional reading: Read this story about Monica on the SF Children of Incarcerated Parents website. Monica is a member of SFCIPP.