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This post is part of WE BLOG for WOODHULL, a month-long program for the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership.

It's been almost two years since I headed up to Ancramdale, NY for a weekend retreat. The only thing I knew on my way there was that there was absolutely no cell phone reception.

I was going to the middle of nowhere for the Woodhull Institute's Young Women's Ethical Leadership Training. I was excited to see what the experience would be like and didn't expect much other than perhaps a couple of tips on how to be a more effective leader.

I took the train up with a group of women I would soon find myself bonding with. When we got there, we were all impressed with the land and how nice the house was. We were also impressed with how incredibly delicious the food was. But all this was nothing compared to the experience we would have.

We learned a lot of very practical things -- how to take responsibility for our own finances and not be scared to save, invest, etc., how to be more effective and aggressive negotiators, and so on. We learned how to speak up, even in a crowd of people, and to take pride in the work we do. All of these are things that are encouraged for men, but that women are steered away from. We saw that everything from our attitude, to the way we sit, or the way we speak about ourselves affects our interactions with people. If you sound tentative, you can't be taken seriously. If you don't own your accomplishments, you can't expect them to be valued by anybody else.

At times, it was also like a mini pledge process. When you're in a house with other women you don't know and there's no television, radio, computers, or phones, it takes away all of the distractions and makes you focus on yourself and on each other. We listened to each other's stories and struggles. We shared advice on where to go next and encouragement that we were on the right track. Some of my favorite memories are not from the actual workshops, but from a quiet morning hike and our talent show.

I left that weekend with a new energy and focus. I felt more confident about my power and how to use it. I also lost some of my anxiety about wanting to do too much at one time. I realized that I have the ability to do whatever I want, but that it's okay to move forward in small steps rather than jumping in before I'm ready.

It was only 3 days, but the lessons I learned that weekend are still with me now. I'm still very grateful and proud to be a Woodhull alumna.


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