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This blog comes to us from Justine Dale Gelbolinga, a DeBruce Career Corps member and student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Justine recently represented The DeBruce Foundation at We Work for Change, an annual event hosted by United WE. On stage, she closed the evening with a moving call to action for all of us to keep empowering women. Here, she reflects on the evening and her career journey.
When I was asked to do this blog, I thought all the wisdom I had stored inside would just spew out- that I would be this well of knowledge. However, as luck would have it, I was drier than the Atacama Desert. The one thing, though, that kept echoing in my mind was my most recent experience presenting on the stage for United WE, representing The DeBruce Foundation as a Career Corps Member.
Picture it with me: there were 1,400+ individuals listening to my voice (ew, I know right?), being attentive to the words I echoed from the teleprompter, as I closed off a wonderful ceremony for women’s rights, gender equity, commemorating former Secretary of State- Madeleine Albright, and welcoming a new voice to United WE’s Mission- Ret. Lieutenant General Nadja West.
Being up on that stage was a surreal experience, mostly because I had spent my weeks prior to the event having breakdowns and what felt like a midlife crisis at 20 years old. You see the thing was, I had always planned my life out to the “T”. At a very young age, I had a plan B, plan C, plan B(a), so on and so forth… It’s what made me feel safe, protected, and comfortable. And as luck was rearing its head again, I moved out to make a life of my own. However, no one told me that “making a life of your own” came with big-girl decisions like deciding if the career that I had chosen at 7- and stuck to – was actually what I wanted to pursue. Up to that point, I considered myself a self-acclaimed very successful individual. I had done events and projects at a younger age than my fellow peers, and of course, it made me feel great. I felt “ahead of the schedule”.
Truth is, at 20, I have done great things. I’ve presented on some amazing stages and I’ve made very important close connections with notable individuals. That being said, at 20 I realized that I don’t need everything figured out, I don’t even need the next day figured out. I understood that the plans you make at 7 & 17 aren’t necessarily what you will pursue in the future.
Organizations like The DeBruce Foundation are paving a way for youth to figure out what values they hold close as a stepping stone for our future careers. Regardless of what stage you are in your life, the accessibility of having free tools you can utilize to make a layout, or decisions, of what trajectory your life will head is something so incredibly vital and not heard of enough. Being a part of the DeBruce Career Corps gives you those foundations with other like-minded individuals that help to keep you grounded.
Standing on that stage with all of those amazing women helped me realize that life is going to keep moving, whether we like it or not, but that it’s up to us to decide how life will be in 7 & 17 years from now. Will I be part of the change, the movement- or will I stay behind, and be comfortable in our economy as it is? Listening to Nadja West was a wake-up call for all of our current and future children in the world.
And as the words “what legacy do I want to leave behind?” echoed in my head, I looked up on that stage before I walked out, to see the words “Legacy of Women” with my name, Justine Dale Gelbolinga, right below it. Though it might’ve not been directly referring to me, I know that at 20 years old, I am part of the change and the movement that’s creating a more sustainable, equitable, unprejudiced, and fair world for our future women and children