Constance Thurmond

2015 MCN Fellow | Undergraduate University: Yale University | Place of Origin: Miami, Florida

"At the age of sixteen, I discovered the horrors that countless children in my local community faced at the hands of human sex trafficking. Deeply affected by what I learned after attending a fundraising event meant to raise awareness on human trafficking, I became a strong advocate for human rights and made it my mission to bring justice to these heinous crimes against humanity.

During my first two years at Miami Dade's Honors College (before matriculating to Yale), I was a part of the Human Rights Alliance (HRA), an organization that promotes awareness and education on human rights issues in a local and global context.

My passion for human rights and HRA soon led me to take on the role of president at the club. As a novice president, I was insecure about my knowledge of the inner workings of nonprofit organizations, my own leadership ability, and how to effectively mobilize students to create social change. But I knew I had passion and wanted to become a better leader for myself and my community. The opportunity to strengthen my leadership skills came in 2015 when I attended the Millennium Campus Network's annual conference that year at the United Nations in New York City.

MCN revealed during the conference that their fellowship program would open up a new hub site in Miami, Florida, where I went to school at the time. I was beyond thrilled by the news; I knew that partaking in a fellowship of that nature would give me the necessary skills to become the leader I wanted to be and truly make an impact on the lives of the people affected by human sex trafficking in my community.

Participating in the MCN fellowship program has given me the opportunity to learn about my strengths and weaknesses as a young leader. The fellowship played a crucial role in informing my position as president at HRC, and I'm very grateful. I left the program as a proud alumna and member of a vibrant community of supportive young, diverse leaders; all of whom became my dear friends and mentors.

Beyond gaining incredible friends and mentors from the fellowship program, I also learned the true importance of depth. "Depth" is digging deep into topics presented at the conference and taking the time to build meaningful relationships with the fellowship community. Depth is essential to building a strong network of intelligent, likeminded leaders and enabling personal growth. Another valuable takeaway from the fellowship program was the “Facilitated Peer Feedback." The opportunity for constructive feedback gave us the chance to hear diverse, alternative perspectives from other peers about various social issues; it encouraged reciprocity and produced a more supportive environment, which is critical for building connections and creating a community.

My MCN experience informed my professional and personal life. As a self-proclaimed philosopher, I always valued the importance of discussing ethical dilemmas; and now MCN has given me the tools and resources to turn those discussions into action. Knowledge on leadership transitions and budgeting are just a couple of the things I acquired from the fellowship. I won't forget what I learned from my time at MCN."

*The "quotes" above have been edited for concision and clarity.