Originally posted on Alexandra, D.C. on August 17, 2015
The women who have been involved in Elect Hernever cease to amaze me. Elect Her is a leadership training program that is hosted on 50 some college campuses across the country each year. My fondest memory at Syracuse University were the months I spent planning the first Elect Her, and now we are about to host our third! It has certainly had a positive impact at Syracuse in terms of electing more women to student government and it has done the same for collegiate women across the country. In some instances, the training seminar not only inspired women to pursue an office with student government, but it inspired to run for office in their own communities. Here is where Allyson Carpenter comes in. After attending Elect Her at Howard University, Allyson was inspired to run for Washington, D.C.'s ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission). She is the youngest elected official in DC history! She offers a refreshing perspective on community involvement and she is a remarkable example of how young women can effectively serve in public office!
How old were you when you ran for your current office?
When I ran for office during my freshman year of college, I was only 17 years old. I wasn’t elected until a few weeks after my 18th birthday.
What woman in politics has been your biggest inspiration and what do you admire about her?
There are so many women in politics who I admire, but Kyrsten Sinema has been a huge inspiration. Congresswoman Sinema grew up in abject poverty and was even homeless, but she’s overcome these adversities. Because of her perseverance, low-income American families have a fearless advocate in Congress who understands what it’s like living below the poverty line.
I admire her because I too understand what it's like to live in poverty, and that is the very reason I’m dedicating my life to public service. We need more advocates like Congresswoman Sinema, and someday, I hope I am able to serve alongside her, fighting for the nation’s poor.
What has been the biggest struggle for you as a woman pursuing your role? How did you overcome that and what do you want others to learn from that?
My greatest struggle as a young woman pursuing political office has been earning the respect of my colleagues and constituents. In the beginning, I worried that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I think that is a fear that many women and young elected officials share. After a year on the job, I’ve realized that you earn respect by staying committed to the people you were elected to serve. I have stayed focused on my constituents and that has helped me overcome many of the obstacles I’ve faced while in office.
What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
If I could give my 10-year-old self any advice, I would tell her that life’s hardships are going to prepare her for an incredible journey in public service. I would tell her to embrace the challenges she faced, because it would soon pay off. Today, I look back and realize that those experiences would be the foundation of life’s work. Those experiences would prepare me to represent marginalized groups with compassion and understanding.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other young women about pursuing their dreams?
Focus on your purpose, not your position. I often hear Senator Cory Booker say that in his speeches and it really resonates with me. While it’s important that more women aspire for higher office, it’s also important that we have the right women in the right offices for the right reasons. Instead of aspiring to be the “first woman elected to (insert office here)” young women should commit to an issue or cause that they are passionate about. Focusing on their purpose will prove to be more meaningful and gratifying than chasing titles and positions.
What is your career ambition?
I am looking forward to a long career in public service. As I mentioned earlier, the position is less important to me than knowing that I made a lasting impact on the lives of underrepresented, marginalized communities in the country.
You have been involved with Running Start. How has Running Start helped you?
Running Start helped me realized my potential and ultimately convinced me to run for office. They showed me exactly what it would take to run an effective campaign and connected me with other women who had already done so.
What is one thing we can do to support more women in leadership?
Recruit! Running Start taught me that when women run for office, they are just as likely as men to win their races. We need to convince the amazing women in our lives that they are capable and ready to serve in leadership positions.
And for fun... what are you doing in your spare time this summer?!
I’ve spent my summer exploring the nation’s capital like a tourist! River cruises on the Potomac and picnics on the National Mall! I even took a tour of the Capitol – after having working there for a year. I’ve lived in DC for a few years, but I’ve taken the amazing monuments and museums for granted. Next year, I will be studying abroad at the University of Oxford, so I’m trying to enjoy my last few weeks in this incredible city.
Where is she now?
Since the first profile, I’ve completed my studies at the University of Oxford. While there, I won the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. The Truman Scholarship will help pay for my graduate studies. While abroad, I decided to run for SGA President back at Howard, and won! I returned to Howard last summer and began executing my duties as SGA President. That’s been my primary focus for most of the year. Following the presidential election, I became involved in the Women’s March on Washington, currently serving on the National Organizing Committee. I’m really excited about 200,000 coming together to protest misogyny and policies that hurt women and girls.
Aside from that, I’m just like every other college senior struggling to find the motivation to get to graduation day, while doing everything in my power to avoid grad school applications. In that vein, I’m leaning towards a gap year, where I hope to work in government.
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