It has been a little over a week since I returned from my trip to LA for Born This Way Foundation's Youth Advisory Board Summit. Although it was fabulous in too many ways to count, I've had a little time to digest my experience -- and now feel confident with sharing with you my four favorite parts:
1. The opportunities I have been given to work on the matters that lie closest to my heart. I wrote a letter to the Born This Way Foundation earlier in the week thanking them for their willingness to change the world, and especially thanking them for including me in that. I told them 'I often pinch myself to check to see if I am dreaming.' I have worked hard for what I believe in and this is possibly the best opportunity to further that.
2. The people I met and the stories we shared. The 24 of us met in LA, hailing from cities across America. None of us knew each other beforehand. I flew alone, but that is the exact opposite of how I felt once we got the ball rolling. It was truly inspiring to me to hear the other youth's stories of tragedies and triumphs. It is astounding how together you feel when you know you are not alone in how you see and feel things.
3. To further the idea of 'never being alone,' knowing my heroes are human. For a while now I have looked up to famous people like Cynthia Germanotta and Lady Gaga. When I say 'knowing my heroes are human,' I mean two things. During the summit, we worked closely with Cynthia and many other founding members of the BTWF and the BTWF YAB. And during this time I got to see how truly down to earth and real these people are. It thrills me to know that there are people out there with great voices willing to speak up for us, the youth. What I also mean by knowing my heroes are human is that when I was in LA, I met many people working with us on the YAB -- shout-out to Sully, Eric, Anne, Catherine, Mai, and Hunter, etc. -- who I may not have necessarily known prior to the summit, but will never forget. I got to meet first-hand real adults who truly care about the world that I am growing in.
4. These people, these humans, became my heroes. These people, who are willing to fight for my rights as a human and to stand up for what they believe in -- a braver, kinder world -- show me that I can achieve my dreams and we can make it happen together.
I came into the weekend with an open mind and few expectations. I left with a broader understanding of what it is to work on a team. I left with memories I will never forget. I left with real role models and heroes to look up to. I left with long-term, long-distance friends that I can't wait to get started and connect with. But most importantly, I left with a strengthened sense of pride and hope. I have pride that the first BTWF YAB will truly make a difference. I have hope and pride for all of these things, because I know that they are achievable. We have come this far -- and there is no stopping us.