Young Woman of the Month: Amanda Lounsbury {January 2017}

amanda

Name: Amanda R. Lounsbury (Dragon)
Age: 22
Location: West Hartford, 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 led you there?

A. I grew up in south Jersey, in the suburbs close to Philadelphia. My parents had all the love and support in the world to give, but unfortunately, love wasn’t going to fill our tummies or help me pay for college. I was always told that my key to a successful future, whatever I decided to do in life, would be through my education. For this reason, I maintained a focus on my academics and always worked extremely hard to succeed. When I received my Bachelor’s degree last May, I became the second person in my entire family history to complete a four-year degree.

Education really does open doors. When I first entered college, my intention was to become a substance abuse counselor. While I still see the value in such a career, I have found other causes that need more immediate attention; I discovered that I can do something now to spark change in the world, rather than waiting until completion of my graduate studies. Essentially, my undergraduate career turned me into quite the activist. Now, I have dreams of running a non-profit/governmental organization and working towards eliminating power-based violence in all settings.

I still don’t know exactly what I want to be “when I grow up” but I am proud of my accomplishments thus far. Since graduation, I’ve been working full-time in higher education administration while I work towards getting my Master’s in Organizational Psychology. A big part of my job is helping University of Hartford students understand their financial aid and how to manage their (unfortunate but often inevitable) future debt, but I am also heavily involved in student life and activities as a volunteer. I am in the process of designing a “seminar” on financial literacy to help prepare students for life after graduation, covering topics such as loan repayment obligations and options, filing taxes, understanding credit scores, and budget management. I’m also on our campus’ Green Dot Action Committee, a group that strives to create a culture of respect, consent, responsibility, and accountability by teaching our community how each individual can be an active bystander. The main goal of this program is to reduce and prevent power-based violence, especially sexual assault, on campus. I’ve also become a certified Crisis Counselor and am working with Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury to advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I’ve also been collecting and mailing donated supplies to the Water Protectors at Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota. So far, I’ve mailed about 30 winter coats, 5 sleeping bags, dozens of gloves, hats, and scarves, and numerous hand warmers. Everything helps!

I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, especially bad things. I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles throughout my life, but I do believe every unfortunate event should be viewed as a challenge. Without being faced with difficulty and tough decisions, how would anyone ever grow? Life is a serendipitous struggle. While I’m not exactly where I expected to be after graduation, I think I’m heading in the right direction. I do believe that everyone has a purpose and, I think, once you unlock that certain passion, you open up a world of possibilities and ways to be successful that you may never have even considered before.

Q. What does young women’s leadership mean to you?

A. When I was in high school, one of my teachers showed our class two images of people working together that compared a “boss” to a “leader”. The boss was at the back of the line, telling people what to do. The leader was in the front of the line, showing people what to do. This image still resonates with me. People often regard leadership as being the boss of someone else, but to me, leadership is very personal. We should all be leading our own lives; we should all be our own boss. Leadership is more than being in charge, it’s about the ability to reframe and resolve problems on a day to day basis, and the ability to get everyone involved on board to support and implement these solutions. Sure, all great leaders have certain qualities in common, but I see leadership as a byproduct of experience. I think every great leader’s actions for equality and social change are preceded by their experience with inequality and injustice. The best advocacy for change comes from the people who are most impacted by it.

Q. Do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?

A. Of course I do. I think that anyone who doesn’t respect feminism just doesn’t understand what it really means. For me, feminism is about lifting each other up and helping all women feel empowered and supported. But it doesn’t stop there. Feminism is about equity for everyone, not just women. That’s the whole point. Feminism is about seeing people for what they are beyond their gender, race, religion, etc. Feminism teaches you that you can’t judge someone’s character by what’s on the surface. We shouldn’t need to explain feminism… Really, we shouldn’t even need feminism as an ideology; it should be the norm to respect women as equal counterparts in our society. Unfortunately, in our current tumultuous social climate, it’s especially important for all people to feel accepted, empowered, and capable of achieving their potential. Everyone deserves to feel supported; everyone deserves to have a voice.

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. Read the fine print. Make informed decisions. Seek out the necessary information to better understand your current situation, and formulate different approaches to reach your goals. Take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you! Utilize the free tools that you have access to. There’s more than you know! If you’re in college, there’s a ton of services that you already pay for that you’re probably not using or even aware of. Always remember that you are not a burden and never be afraid to ask questions! Believe in your own ability to achieve your goals, but never allow yourself to feel shame for failing or making a mistake. This isn’t exactly one piece of advice, but it all goes together: understand the resources that are available to you and utilize them as necessary.

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 michelle.noehren@cga.ct.gov.

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