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Holding a plate with toothpicks stuck into it, and marshmallows and string decorated across it, we thought we had saved ourselves a nice spot as the last place in the engineering challenge at GenHERation. Dozens of attendees, including the Adobe employees who were the judges of the event, stared at us from all around. My hands were Chen photoshaking as I took the microphone from a woman wearing a purple GenHERation shirt, and I began to speak in a frightened tone, “Take Back Your School is an app that would allow students to actually have a say in their school.” As my voice slowly faded in the echoes within the huge room, I hurriedly handed the microphone to my teammate, Sarah. As I listened to her elaborate on the idea that we had created, I thought, This is not half as bad as what I had originally…But before I could even process what I was thinking, the time was already up, and the judges moved their gaze to the next group. The four of us – Sarah, Jessica, Kathy and I – all gave each other high-fives before sitting down and politely listening to the innovations of the other groups.

When the challenge was over, the other three girls took their original seats in the audience, but I went off to the side, preparing for my pitch to the judges for the Social Innovation Challenge. I took my spot as last in line to present, for I wanted as much time as I could to gather my thoughts, and hopefully, fathom them into something that would make at least some sense to the judges. The girls ahead of me seemed to be taking each only two seconds to presents, and soon it dwindled to only two girls left on the side of the room. As the girl ahead of me walked up to the podium, Sarah, Jessica and Kathy all came up to me to wish me the best of luck. I had come into this event alone — from the Cal-Train ride to San Francisco to the two blocks I walked to get to the Adobe Headquarters – I had done it all by myself. But to see some people out there who were supporting me, who were cheering me on, it just made me feel that much more confident. And as they each gave me a heart-warming hug, I finally found the courage to do what I had come here for.

Stepping onto the stage with my head held high, I took the microphone from the same woman in the purple GenHERation shirt; but this time, my hands were steady. I looked across the room at all the attendees, and they were no longer my competition, but instead, they were my companions, wanting me to succeed as much as I wanted to myself. I took a deep breath and began. And as I spoke, I glanced around the room, and every time I shifted my view, I would see a different smiling face gazing up at me. Before I knew it, two minutes had gone by, and an applause – loud and sincere – filled the room. I had come to GenHERation alone, but I definitely did not leave the same.

Contributor: Caitlyn Chen

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Comment (1)

  1. Merry     September 11, 2015 at 10:34pm

    Caitlyn, I loved this blog post. I wasn’t able to make it to the conference this summer, but reading about these experiences almost makes up for it! It sounds like you really got to experience and learn from all that the GenHERation community has to offer. 🙂

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