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More than 400 participate in Comstock’s 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock and Aaraf Adam of Westfield High School pose at Young Women Leadership Program event on Capitol Hill June 18, 2016.Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi
When now Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R) got the call several years back that Northern Virginia Republicans were looking for someone to run for the Virginia House of Delegates, she wasn’t quite sure what to do.

Even though she had worked extensively in government for former Congressman Frank Wolf and in the political realm for the Republican National Committee, she was hesitant to say yes.

“That’s just something I had never thought about, even though I'd always worked in government,” Comstock told over 400 participants of her 4th annual 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program at the Congressional Auditorium on Saturday.

Comstock hosted attendees at the program she launched in 2013 as a way to bring together middle and high school students from the 10th District and encourage them to pursue top careers, while getting advice from local and national leaders from varying professions.

This year's group was the largest yet. They heard from Comstock and Melissa Richmond, the vice president of Running Start, an organization that supports women looking to get into politics.

Comstock talked about her journey from state delegate to congresswoman of Virginia’s 10th and how the inspiration for the Young Women Leadership Program came to her in the time between.

In 2009, as Comstock debated whether or not to run for delegate, she agreed to meet with House Speaker William J. Howell. Although she had not yet made an official decision, shortly after their meeting at a public event, Howell publicly announced Comstock’s run for delegate, thrusting her into the spotlight and forcing her to make a decision.

After winning her first election, Comstock read the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. The book examines the difficulties women face in achieving leadership positions.

Comstock said that, after reading the book, she realized she too was guilty of some of the shortfalls Sandberg highlighted and realized many times, women hold themselves back because they feel they are not ready.

Comstock said Sandberg’s book and her experience in climbing to one of the highest leadership roles in the United States inspired her to launch the Young Women Leadership Program.

Now, over six years later, going from delegate to congresswoman, Comstock says she hopes to encourage and instill confidence in the next generation of young women going out into the workforce through her program.

“Women leaders in all fields need to hear from women who’ve gone before them,” Comstock told the Times-Mirror.

The congresswoman explained the program serves as a “confidence-building experience” so that participants can walk away understanding “whether you succeed or fail in your activities, have passion about what you’re doing.”

“It also gives everyone, no mater what their background is, no matter who they know, they can go online read about women leaders be exposed to women leaders and with this program, they’re gonna meet women leaders in their neighborhoods or are national, state and local figures who are making a difference their communities and leading,” Comstock said.

17-year-old Mackenzie Dorsey, a rising senior at Potomac Falls High School, says she hopes to use Young Women Leadership Program to help her lead her student body as president next year and gain leadership skill before going off to college

“I figured I’d try to expand my leadership qualities and knowledge of how to lead people,” Dorsey said.

15-year-old Aaraf Adam, a rising junior of Westfield High School, said the Young Women’s Leadership Program not only helps empower other women like herself, but also shows “all women can come together, it doesn’t matter their race, their gender,” she said.

The Young Women’s Leadership Program also included a discussion with Richmond of Running Start about some of the fears women are faced with when going up against their male counterparts at school, in the workforce and beyond.

“My first lesson is to be really enthusiastic for asking for things," Richmond said. "My second lesson is even if someone tells you no just politely say I’m desperate to be here, and my third lesson is, wherever you are, be the person who works the hardest in the room to get what you want.”

Young women participants were led to the House floor, where the congresswoman talked about the history of capital over the years and explained to them Congress’ day-to-day work and how they vote on the floor.

Over the summer, participants will attend several other leadership events, where they will meet with fellow women leaders such as CEO of Middleburg’s Salamander Resort & Spa, Sheila Johnson, in addition to other leaders from the science, policy and media fields.


“Due Process: fair treatment through the normal judicial system, especially as a citizen’s entitlement.” (Fightin Illini)

ryan wants due process for terrorists to purchase weapons of war but not to have fair trials? NO due process for am. citizens on regular civil rts? gop suppress votes w/ voter id laws & restricts am. citizens fr moving around freely w/out being hassled or arrested in police state fashion.

comstock can protest vote 4 obama but won’t vote on sensible gun legislation?  bet she votes tRump in november!

Truth be told, Dem Senators had their chance for no fly, no buy legislation as long as there was a due process clause.  Guess they want to eliminate 14th amendment along with 2nd.

It is almost too easy to tweak Comstock on what leadership relaly looks like…she can’t seem to find her voice on Trump….she runs out of town rather that agree to hold a vote on the recent no-fly, no-buy legislation…and on and on.

i’m hoping that these young women watched “real” action on the house floor yesterday - leaders demonstrated “passion about what you’re doing.”  comstock is just another photo op & shuts down discussion on gun violence, favors silence over meaningful legislation.

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