Not many can say they were able to lobby on Capitol Hill, and speak to their State Senators and Representatives, but I am one of few that can share my experience. The night before departing for my flight to Washington, I spent the entire night packing, and unpacking my suitcase. Since I never traveled to Washington before, I didn’t know what kind of weather I would be encountering. So I decided to pack a little of every weather attire, just to be safe. As I sat in the airport with my council members, I couldn’t help but think about the Urban Retreat. Many questions were roaming through my head, “What kind of people will I meet?” Am I prepared to lobby to Senators and Representatives?” “Will they take me seriously?” I realized me over thinking and over-analyzing this wonderful experience even before I arrived to Washington will just make me insane. So at that moment, I decided to just relax, and take in everything as it comes.
After two hours on the plane, we finally landed in Washington. As we entered the Washington Court Hotel, we were greeted with bad news. The night before, the Hotel was sold out, so many of our rooms were not ready. Some saw it as an inconvenience, but I wasn’t complaining; I was in Washington! As we waited for our rooms, three of my council members and me went sight-seeing. I got to see many different monuments, and the Capitol building. The first night we started off with orientation, there, I met some of the most amazing people ever. We ended the night with Craftivism. I got to make mask and a condom balloon! (Super cool )
At our first CAMI meeting, I met some members from a group in California called Oakland. From then on, I fell in love with their entire council. Every single one of them had such an awesome vibe, which made me feel so welcomed. Later on in the day, I met other advocates from around the United States, Uganda, Nepal and Jamaica. After knowing these people for only 48 hours, I suddenly grew a bond with them. Not only did I learn how to be a better advocate and leader, but I also got to learn about different cultures.
Despite the fact that I missed three school days, and had a pile load of work waiting for me, back at home, I enjoyed the entire retreat. I got to learn to advocate for things that would not only affect me and my generation, but the generations to come after me. I learned to be empowered for my rights, as a youth, as a woman, and as an individual. I refuse to be another statistic in this society, so I must stand up, and fight for what I believe in. The best part of the Retreat, was getting the opportunity to lobby on Capitol Hill. On the outside, I remained calm and collective, but on the inside, I was a nervous wreck. I was worried I would forget all the information, and I wouldn’t be able to answer any questions, if presented to me. But thankfully, we made it through all our meetings successfully.
The worst part of the Urban Retreat had finally approached us, the farewells and goodbyes. I dreaded this moment greatly, but it had to be done. I took pictures with mostly everyone, and I took everyone’s Facebook and Twitter names. Even if we were in different areas, I still wanted to keep in contact with everyone. As we said our last goodbyes, and gave our last hugs, I suddenly was filled with so much sadness. But I remembered all the great information I was given within the last couple of days, and remembered, what my greater purpose of attending the Urban Retreat was.
I recommend to anyone that’s given the opportunity to attend the Urban Retreat, to take the advantage and go, it will be a life-changing experience, and a real eye opener. I know it was for me, and I hope next year, I am given the opportunity to attend again!