Susie Lira Gonzalez
These past couple of weeks have been exciting, reenergizing, and helpful in narrowing down my passions. Finding my top passion has been a challenge for me because I have a wide range of interests and get excited about many topics. Although, ESTEEM has been transformative in helping me find the thing I love to do so much that I would do it for free. I only have classes on M/T/W and this leaves the rest of the week for endless opportunities. So naturally, I took this past week to attend conferences in cities and on topics I am passionate about to help narrow my interests.
I finished my first two triathlons as part of the Notre Dame Triathlon Club and shortly after set foot on a plane to Denver, CO to attend Denver Startup Week (DSW). I was very intentional about attending this event because I am moving to Denver after graduation and wanted to get a pulse on the startup scene in Denver. It also did not hurt that all of the events were FREE. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who made space available to host and develop workshops for all in attendance. There were two key events that stood out as my favorite:
(RE)designing Denver to Support Women in Entrepreneurship
I met so many incredible and inspiring women tackling some of the most pressing problems facing our city. We heard from Tami Door, Co-Founder & Co-Chair of DSW, and State Representative Leslie Herod on their reasons for pioneering change in their respective fields. Both women are fully invested in developing a city that is designed to provide a safer ecosystem for women entrepreneurs and their initiatives.
DSW Pitch Challenges
The pitch challenge awarded over $145,000 in prizes to top winners in the competition. The winning company, Sheets & Giggles, is a Eucalyptus based sheets company with a social mission to source responsibly and do good for the environment. Many of the top pitches had some underlying social mission which is very reflective of the Denver Startup scene.
After the final pitch competition, I traveled to Atlanta, GA for the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit. This is a conference hosted for Coca-Cola Scholars every five years to reconnect with other scholars. This year was the 30th anniversary of the scholarship foundation. As a bit of background, the Coca-Cola Scholarship exists to bring better to the world through investment in exceptional high school students who are dedicated to leadership, service, and action that positively affects others. More information can be found here.
There were many inspirational speakers like Cara Mund, Miss America 2018, and Daron K. Roberts, Harvard Law to NFL, who shared their personal stories in regards to how they found success through perseverance. The talk that perhaps resonated with me the most was by Adan Gonzalez and his work as the founder of the Puede Network. The Puede Network organizes initiatives with C-Suite executives to provide comprehensive college access services, volunteer opportunities, and mentorship to underprivileged students in inner city public schools.
Adan is a first generation college student who attended Georgetown University for his undergraduate studies and Harvard for his M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management. He is also the son of two immigrants and one of four children. The reason his story resonated with me is because I too am the child of two immigrants and one of four children. I have always felt called to do more for my community by helping others access college or by helping them find a way to develop skills for the workforce of the future. I do not have all the pieces figured out but I do see myself closer aligned to my passions—helping ensure that learning is relevant and accessible for the most economically vulnerable and doing it in my home state of Colorado.
Getting to this point would not have been possible without the resources provided by ESTEEM. ESTEEM fully equips each of us with the tools necessary to find our ‘Ah-ha’ moment and execute on it. For some, that moment of ‘I could do this for the rest of my life for free’ comes quickly and for others it takes time. There is not a wrong or right way and comparison is the thief of joy so my advice to anyone is to enjoy the journey.
So, if you’re at all interested in ESTEEM or wondering if you can get in, my advice to you is APPLY because as one of my favorite quotes goes, "You belong here, you need to be here, and now you have work to do to ensure you aren't the last." -Anonymous