Jen Valero: Feminist Camp NYC Reflection

Penguin Random House

Feminist Camp has changed me. You see, I entered into a problematic head space each day: putting on my dress pants, button down, blazer, and name tag, I began to wonder whether my appeal to fit into the professional world was somehow inauthentic to who I am. I asked myself: am I white-washing my Colombian identity?

When first generation persons of color attempt to step into worlds never entered by anyone they have ever known, an identity crisis ensues. I felt so sure that I did not belong in those boardrooms with professional activists, but it was during these moments that I was forced to face the feelings that have been increasingly on my mind as graduation day looms closer: What exactly am I going to do? Whose footsteps do I follow? How could I ever enter a professional world when those spaces were never meant for people like me?–that was the unlikely question that seemed to open a door to a version of myself that I had not yet discovered.

Amy Richards–the cofounder of Feminist Camp–called me over to tell me she arranged a meeting with a friend that worked at Random House. More than excitement came fear, surely I was unworthy of such a meeting, right?

Entering the Random House building is an experience that is difficult for me to describe. Imagine you come from a home where concerns of safety and the security of our next meal far surpassed concerns of education. We had no books at home, so the wonder that I felt the first time I entered a library was akin to the exhilaration I felt at Random House. At two different points in my life, I felt the same euphoria surrounded by literature. I dreamed of a future in books, but I never believed I had the tools that would get me there. I never believed I would meet someone that could help me.

So there I sat across from the Assistant Director of Random House; she was sweet and welcoming. When she asked me about my interests and goals, the meek voice I expected to hear checked out as I spoke with an unwavering strength that I have never known my voice to have. I talked about my experience and leadership roles in publishing with confidence and clarity. Now this may not seem particularly significant, but this air of competence is not something I believed I possessed. Despite my accomplishments, my mind has remained stuck in the past–who I was and where i had come from and not how hard I have worked to get as far as I have come.

This program has given me hope that I have never felt allowed to feel. I know now that if given the opportunity, I can prove to be a strong and capable woman. In all sincerity, this program has been the most rewarding experience I have had at Rollins. I am more prepared and confident in my future than I have ever been.

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