Posts Tagged ‘Mayda del Valle’

Kelsey Klein

The 2013 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) is approaching and will surely leave our attendees with new revelations on leadership. Following NCCWSL 2012 — one of our most successful conferences to date — we will go above and beyond for students May 30–June 1, 2013.

For past attendees, NCCWSL has provided the boost of confidence that they needed to get going in leadership. Our conference provides life-changing skills to help women step up to the plate and lead without any doubts.

Meet Kelsey Klein, for example. Klein is a senior majoring in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Last year, she attended as a national scholarship recipient and could not have been more appreciative. “My high expectations for NCCWSL 2012 were in no way disappointed,” Klein says, glowing over the amazing words of encouragement that she heard from keynote speakers Lilly Ledbetter and Mayda del Valle. Klein was also moved by the stories and accomplishments of our Women of Distinction honorees, specifically Noorjahan Akbar. “I felt like [I saw] my life reflected in NCCWSL 2012, reminding me that I am not alone in my experiences,” says Klein. “I felt connected to the women of NCCWSL.”

NCCWSL inspired Klein to “be fearless” and “go for it!” Hearing and connecting with all the women at the conference gave her the power to be confident, assured, and steadfast in utilizing her skills. “This means recommitting myself to these qualities in my current leadership roles as well as being confident, fierce, and fearless in accepting new leadership roles,” she explains. Now producing her university’s performance of The Vagina Monologues, Klein continues to put these tools to use.

NCCWSL was definitely a transformative experience for Klein, one that she highly recommends to other student women leaders. “Whether you are a new leader or an experienced one, NCCWSL can help you build leadership skills, think about leadership in new ways, and refresh your commitment to excellence,” she says. “Take advantage of any opportunity to attend the conference!”

So where will you be May 30–June 1? Take Kelsey’s advice:  Be fearless! Be inspired! Be transformed into a better leader, and make sure you register for NCCWSL 2013!

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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Despite the early hour, the keynote speaker on the final morning of two-and-a-half days of intense and fun leadership training at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) did not disappoint. Mayda del Valle, an accomplished slam poet and performer, rocked the stage. And her words took the audience through a range of emotions — from bursts of laughter to moments of silence and reflection.

Over the course of the conference, the college women attendees learned how to find and use their voices, and del Valle was the perfect speaker to demonstrate how important this skill is. After introducing herself and quickly creating a rapport with the audience, she flowed effortlessly into a performance of a poem that she wrote in college. “Voice” stressed the importance of language, highlighted del Valle’s experiences as a bilingual woman, and described how loud her voice had to be in order to be heard. The poem ended with this line: “Your voice, your voice, your voice is life, is needed, and is loud!”

But del Valle also encouraged us to listen. She said that she spent most of her life living in the margins — as a Puerto Rican woman from the South Side of Chicago, she felt unrepresented in the city’s black-and-white politics, and she never felt like she fit in at Williams College when she was a student there. Her life shaped her stories, and she felt privy to a lot of experiences because she was an outsider. Many of the young women in the audience nodded in agreement. She encouraged them to be open to others’ experiences. “You have to be willing to put aside your prejudices, your opinions, and your thoughts and just take a moment to listen to somebody else’s story,” she said. “If you listen and experience someone’s story as though it was your own, I think the world would be a better place.”

The audience appreciated del Valle’s performance because she demonstrated the power that a single woman can have if she isn’t afraid to use her voice. When I spoke to del Valle after her presentation, she told me how much she loves speaking to college women because she feels like she can relate to them. “I like this demographic because they’re really open … and they can take the information that you offer and implement it in their lives,” she said.

The students certainly loved hearing from her! Caroline Switchenko and Lulu Lamb, both rising sophomores at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut, had nothing but praise for del Valle. “I can honestly say that that was the most amazing performance I’ve seen,” said Switchenko. “She caught my attention because she was so relatable. She was really inspirational.” Lamb added that she was moved because del Valle was so completely herself. “She was honest and strong. She’s paving the way for so many people.” Watching students exiting the auditorium, I could tell that del Valle touched them all.

Del Valle’s ability to tell her story was not only inspirational but also motivational. She makes a living by telling her story, and she encouraged the young women to follow their dreams in the same way. One attendee, who described herself as a poet, asked how she could get others to take her passion seriously. Del Valle encouraged the woman to use her words and her voice and added that writing and performing poetry was a way of giving back to the community. Del Valle urged the student not to do what others want you to do. “You do you, boo,” she said.

At del Valle’s performance, conference-goers learned to use their voices for activism and social change, and they also discovered how to tell their stories as a way to relate to one another. As del Valle told the nearly 600 students, “I like to encourage people to tell their stories because nobody else can do that for you.”

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Meredith Spencer-Blaetz.

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“I’m writing again, I’m living again,

I’m [inhale] breathing again.”

Mayda del Valle left her audience in awe after she performed “The Gift” on Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. As a spoken word performer, I too was left amazed. The feeling of getting on the stage and pouring out every feeling is always amazing — even better is having the audience connect with and feel what you’re talking about. It is something every artist looks forward to. Del Valle did just that — she used her words to captivate the audience, tell her story, and leave her mark. I must admit that I reached for my pen and started writing after I saw her performance.

Midway through her act, I came to realize how the beauty of words can inspire people, and del Valle has a way with her words. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago and began performing her work during her high school years. It wasn’t until she relocated to New York City in 2000 that she began performing competitively. A regular at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, del Valle won four out of her first five slams. The rest is history! In 2009, she even performed at the White House for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, and she continues to perform today.

The most inspiring part of del Valle’s story is that she has taken her passions for writing and performing and used them to encourage her community. She went on a spoken word tour with Norman Lear’s Declare Yourself, which encourages young people to register to vote. Thanks to her experiences as a woman growing up in a diverse neighborhood under the influence of hip-hop music, del Valle is able to relate to women from different backgrounds.

I am truly excited that del Valle will be a keynote speaker at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. I am looking forward to her performance and anticipating the ways in which she will use her words to inspire everyone in the room. She is sure to leave the audience transformed and ready to lead.

Have you ever used your words to lead?

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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