The 4 Best Days of My Life: How the ANNPower Vital Voices Leadership Forum Changed My Perspective on Life

By Tina Lu

Are you a girl who wants to change the world?

I looked down at the flyer in my hand, my lips pursed. Yes, of course I wanted to change the world. But how?

I’m sure we have all noticed acts of injustice in our daily lives – wealthy businessmen strolling past homeless beggars on the streets, cocky teenage boys jeering at pretty girls without consequences, children crying because they’re “different” – but felt helpless to do anything to right those wrongs. I will be the first to admit that I’ve turned my head the other way on numerous occasions. But the time for that has passed; I have a voice, you have a voice, and our voices will be heard.

When I decided to apply to be an ANNPower Vital Voices Fellow in February, it was by the recommendation of a woman I had met for less than an hour. I was at a conference; she was one of the speakers. Afterwards, I asked to conduct an interview with her. Unfortunately, she rejected my offer, but to make up for that rejection, she referred me to the ANNPower Vital Voices Fellowship program. Unbeknownst to her, she provided me with the best opportunity of my life.

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These past few days, I had the fortune of meeting the most amazing women (and men) around the world during a four-day ANNPower Vital Voices leadership forum in New York City. The other 49 fellows, who resided in locations as exotic as Puerto Rico and Germany, quickly became my newest 49 friends. With beaming smiles and clasped hands, we partook on the greatest whirlwind adventure together.

I learned SO MUCH from all of the presenters we had, and we had a great variety of them. Here is just a sampling of all of the amazing and inspiring people who spoke to us:

  1. Gary Muto, President and CEO of ANN INC.
  2. Liisa Pierce Fiedelholtz, Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain, ANN Inc.
  3. Terri McCullough, CEO of No Ceilings: The Full l Participation Project
  4. Kathleen Friery, Four-Time Emmy-Winning Producer
  5. Maria Cristina Gonzalez, Senior Vice President, Global Public Affairs at the Estee Lauder Companies
  6. Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire
  7. Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
  8. Shelley Brindle, Former Executive Vice president, Domestic Network Distribution and Marketing, HBO and Cinemax

Needless to say, I learned enough life advice from these absolutely inspiring women to last me the rest of my life. If you’re curious about what any of these speakers said, I will be posting articles or interviews on each and every one of them, so make sure to SUBSCRIBE to Project GirlSpire.

But the really really inspiring people were our mentors from the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network, who we were all fortunate to have spent so much time with! These women have revolutionized their individual communities in Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan, Guatemala, India, Samoa, Myanmar, and Cameroon. If you’re curious, you can Google the following names, but I won’t spoil the individual interviews we plan to post.

Vital Voices Mentors:

  1. Panmela Castro
  2. Luz Maria De La Mora
  3. Samar Minallah Khan
  4. Maria Pacheco
  5. Priti Paktar
  6. Adimaimalaga Tafuna’i
  7. Yin Myo Su
  8. Kah Walla

Samar Minallah Khan, who was my personal mentor, was hands-down the most amazing woman I have ever had a real-life conversation with. Her creativity and grit absolutely astounds me. With an anthropology degree from Cambridge University, she helped end the practice of swara, a form of compensation marriage, using documentaries, paintings, folk songs, puppet shows, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for a more extensive article on her and her accomplishments.

But even though meeting such inspiring people was absolutely awesome, the real fun came with shopping. Armed with $100 gift cards and a 50% off discount, we shopped till we dropped at LOFT, one of the three stores run by ANN INC. (The other two are Ann Taylor and Lou & Grey.) In case you’re wondering, I bought a gorgeous off-the-shoulder dress and an even more gorgeous off-the-shoulder romper that I will definitely be getting A LOT of wear out of this summer. We were also given a starter makeup kit by Clinique and a super cute white leather bag from Ann Taylor, just in case the shopping experience was not enough. But don’t worry; that’s not all. We also got to watch Matilda on Broadway, and believe me, it was good. I’ve never been a big fan of musicals, but I thoroughly enjoyed Matilda.

So yes, the four-day ANNPower Vital Voices Leadership Forum was the best four days of my life, but that’s not just because of the super accomplished mentors or awesome shopping and theater experiences we had. It’s because of the 49 ridiculously accomplished and inspiringly visionary high schoolers I met from around the country. Their stories, actions, and experiences all were so unique yet there was a common thread running through all of their pasts – they were all girls who saw a problem and worked their asses off to fix it. From them, I learned that girls from all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, and ages, including YOU have the capacity to change the world. All you need is a problem and a passion to solve it – the rest will just follow. So what is your problem? Comment it down below; Project GirlSpire believes in you.

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All factors combined, the ANNPower Vital Voices Leadership Forum was like no other experience I have ever had. I highly highly encourage all of you to apply next year, and if you have any questions or want application advice, please feel free to email me at tlu17@stu.hpreg.org.

So, am I a girl who wants to change the world?

No, I’m not. I’m a girl who will change the world.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. andrea sangrey says:

    wonderful. UP-lift-ing. Now go forth, take those lessons, pay it forward, inspire through your actions!

    Like

  2. Mark Bergman says:

    As a male, I think the organization is great. My feeling is that we should get rid of most males in “important” positions, and replace them with women.

    Like

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