I had many takeaways from this amazing trip to Washington, DC, for the Urban Retreat.
It is kind of hard to lower it to three, but I will try. One takeaway was the act of storytelling. I never knew that it was better to talk about personal experiences rather than facts. I especially thought this because we were presenting for legislators for lobby day and they seem to always want the statistics when hearing about bills that people want to be passed. It was incredible hearing stories from all of the other students and even some of the students from our own group. I had to keep from crying sometimes. When I told my personal story, it was hard because some people that knew me for years were just hearing it for the first time and I think that it changed their perspective of me. I am glad that I told my story though.
I really enjoyed meeting all of the other groups on the trip. Everyone brought their unique personalities and styles and made for a great experience. I really enjoyed meeting the international students. I never knew the struggle that these people went through and that is something that you can’t just see from someone’s outer appearance. We all got on deeper levels with one another and learned so much that is relevant across the world. Everyone was on a mission to change the world and this weekend experience made our missions easier to accomplish.
One thing that I learned from the Urban Retreat that I brought back to implement in SC is the HIV treatment and the studies that scientists are doing to find a cure. I never knew that there were so many ways of treating HIV. I believe that people do not get tested because they still look at it as a death sentence. I will talk to the teen groups that I run and make sure that they know this to tell their friends and make sure that they are aware of what they can do to help themselves.
One memory I will always take with me is the group hug that we had before we started lobbying. Through that small moment, I knew that we were a family now. The things that we shared with each other and the laughs and smiles we shared made me realize that I could depend on all of them whenever I needed anything. Even though we came together under very tragic circumstances, we now have the motivation and the love to fight for what we believe in as a team.