12 Women + 12 Months = PWN Policy Fellows

I think this accurately expresses the excitement, honor and joy I felt when I received an email from Arneta Rogers, (pronounced ARR-nee-tuh) Positive Women's Network - USA Policy & Advocacy Manager. I distinctly remember I was having a pretty fabulous day as Florida HIV Justice Coalition celebrated their HIV modernization bill SB 625 had just passed the Criminal Justice committee with a unanimous vote. I was back in my hotel room with my daughter who was with me on Spring Break and decided to check my email before the end of the day. Disregard the 3,380 unread emails - a lot of them are list serv chain responses.

This cannot be my life. There were 40 amazing, talented and dedicated applicants. Out of them, I was chosen to be among twelve great women that are ready to do the work and take names later.

The process to apply really happened for me at the last minute. PWN kept announcing it and then someoine mentioned in an email non-related to this that they hadn't seen an application come in from me yet. I was stunned and kind of laughed it off. I was scared to make the time committment because SERO is my priority and while I knew that these two opportunities would go hand in hand, I didn't want to stretch myself too thin. Then another PWNer mentioned to me in passing that she thought I should apply. She said, "Don't think about it, just do it." So, that's exactly what I did.

I told myself, if this is meant for me, then it will be. This year whenever I have been nervous or apprehensive about taking a leap of faith, I look up at my vision board to remind myself how confident and inspired I was when I made it. The entire right side of my vision board has phrases like, "Leading woman", "StrongHer", "She's the Boss", "Build Your Dream", "Nothing For Us Without Us", "I am Enough" and images of Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae and I even put a image of myself standing among them because I stand on the shoulders of greatness. Looking at that board told me that I could accomplish something great with this fellowship. I don't know what that is yet, but I know I will be prepared to try.

I hit send on the application and didn't give it another thought.

Until I received an email asking me to prepare for a video interview.

A what, now?

My luck, this would be me...

However, I knew and was comfortable with my interviewers Arneta and Cammie. They asked me questions that made me dig deeper to my WHY I wanted to be a part of the fellowship, what my plans were for my future with the training I'd be given and other questions that helped me own my truth about how little I knew about policy work, but how much I knew this fellowship would not just help me but my community. I plan to bring all the knowledge I gain to others.

After the interview, again I put it out of my head beacuse I didn't want to stress too much about it, but inside I really was on pins and needles to know who was selected.

And then, that beautiful day came when I got the email and I screamed with joy and felt all warm inside. The next question was...who else is going to be in this inaugural team? I'm looking forward to working with the amazing 12, getting to know those that I haven't met before and work with those who's reputation I've admired from afar. I can't believe I'm a PWN Policy Fellow. You can meet the others here.

We are also assigned a coach and by coach, I mean Rock Stars of policy and advocacy work. Suraj Madoori, Kathie M. Hiers, Jessica Terlikowski, and my coach, Kimberly Miller are all people I want to be like when I grow up. With their expertise, committment and resources each participant in this fellowship will be equipped to do just that.

While I was assigned to focus on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, everything somehow overlaps and we will be cross-trained in a lot of topics. What are some other issues I want to work on? 

  • For my state: 
    • the modernization of our outdaed HIV statutes (long-term goal)
    • Medicaid & the Affordable Care Act (FL was one of the southern states that did not expand Medicaid)
  • For my personal passion:
    • Women's reproductive justice, comprehensive sex education in all schools
    • Economic equity among women living with HIV
We will spend the next year on webinar trainings every other week, including supplemental trainings in between. We will participate in the PWN Policy Workgroup that meets once a month to discuss local and fedeal policy issues; have reading and writing assignments from the webinar trainings; scheduled conference calls with our coaches and we will have a face to face meeting and training mid-way through in Washington D.C. Oh and the super kicker that I'm excited about is that we get to take the one issue we are passionate about and find an organization through our coach to work with that organization in bringing about effective policy change. Talk about being the hands and feet to the work! Woooo!

Lastly, not only do I get to work with some of the fierecest women in the field, but we get to be coached by influential change makers. I am so honored that they will be investing time in us for a year among their busy schedules. 2017 has me feeling like Beyonce. Seriously.

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