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Social Sciences and Policy Institute as Eye Opening

Author: Ariana Rodriguez

As an intern through YAASPA, I was really looking forward to attending the Social Sciences and Policy Institute. I saw this as an opportunity to learn about different issues and gain an understanding from other people's perspectives.

Quite frankly, what I experienced exceeded my expectations. Throughout the two weeks I gained knowledge, friendships, and inspiration.

There were many different speakers during the institute. They all covered politically controversial topics. Such as; public and civic health, cultural appropriation, and policy changes. The speakers had incredible lessons and eye opening messages. They made sure that everyone had a chance to speak when they wanted. This was essential because it showed us that they cared about our opinions.

The influencer that I found myself resonating with the most was named Rafael. He spoke on the topic of identity, which helped me realize what the world will see first contrasted to what I am and can be. At the end of his presentation a student asked a heavy question, “What piece of advice would you give a minority entering a dominated white room?” His response was admirable. He recommended to us to make our voices known and make it a point to be noticed and heard due to the fact that it can be taken away from us. This was eye-opening to me because that was my biggest struggle.

Navigating through a world that made it hard to feel comfortable in was my biggest conflict. And this institute was able to give me a positive and safe sanctuary to be the best version of myself.

Not only were the speakers truly amazing but the overall environment was incredibly positive. This could not have been done without the wonderful students. I was able to connect with others and share my personal experiences in life. I found that many others either shared similar situations or they were purely just able to understand where I was coming from.

My overall experience at the institute was incredibly amazing and eye opening. I felt comfortable and inspired throughout. I always felt completely empowered and encouraged. In this institute I feel that what I have learned is incredibly essential to my future. I was able to connect with my identity, learn about my community, and create changes that I am very capable of. All of which could not have been done without YAASPA.

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