Name: Nikki Semenza
From: Vernon, CT
Q. Can you tell us a little about your life path? What are you doing in your career and community right now and what lead you there?
A. I have lived in New England for my entire life; I grew up in southern New Hampshire and then moved to Connecticut for college. After graduating, I did a year of public service with AmeriCorps VISTA. This experience lead me to pursue a graduate degree in social work (MSW) after seeing the effects of poverty in the community I lived in. I decided to concentrate in policy practice and women, children, and families as a substantive area to be involved in macro-level change.
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing women throughout my life. From my Mom and Grandmothers to my mentors in grad school, I was always pushed to be the best version of myself. I was never told I couldn’t do something based on my gender. Inspired by all of the important women in my life as well as my passion for service, I am now starting a congressional fellowship with Women’s Policy, Inc. I am going to work for a Congresswoman starting in January of 2017.
Q. What does young women’s leadership mean to you?
A. Young women leaders aren’t afraid to say yes…especially fi it means challenging any and all preconceived notions of what women are capable of accomplishing. Beyond just representing half of the population, young leaders are advocating and advancing the rights for all. Young women are collaborative, energetic, and passionate. Leaders, addressing problems and working towards equitable solutions, rise at any age. Young women leadership ensures more inclusive communities and that all women’s talent is recognized. The perspectives of young women are vast, from educational pursuits to careers to family caregiving, that young women must be vocal about what they need. Leadership can come from anywhere in any space, whether it’s starting a food drive in high school to joining a nonprofit board.
Q. Do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?
A. I do consider myself a feminist because I believe all people must have access to social, political, and economic rights. However, feminism has often been exclusionary of some voices, particularly women of color. I know I cannot be a true feminist without understanding the ways in which feminism has historically had a complicated connotation for many. Feminism must be intersectional to allow for the range of experiences and identities of all women to be heard and represented.
Q. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other young women, ages 18-35, about how to build their leadership skills or the importance of becoming a leader?
A. I would suggest in getting involved in public or community service because all leaders need to be connected to their communities. If you do not know much about your community, this is the perfect opportunity to get out there and know your neighbors. I also advocate not being afraid to ask for what you want and asking others for help. For me, I did not initially have the self-confidence to ask for a female mentor. But then I got tired of not having that guidance so I went for it. Even if you ask for what you want and get a no response, there is a lot of learning in navigating through the no’s. It’s never too early to start developing your leadership skills so never let your numerical age define you.
Young Women Rising celebrates one young woman each month by sharing their story here on our blog. If you know of a young woman between the ages of 18-35 that we should consider including please email us at email@example.com.