NeW Leader at College of Charleston, Charlotte Townsend, is participating in The Heritage Foundation Academy this summer. Learn more about her great experience and what she is learning in the program.
How did you hear about The Heritage Foundation Academy? Why did you decide to apply and get involved?
I applied for The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program for the summer of 2020, as it had always been a professional goal of mine to serve as an intern for Heritage. Gratefully, I was selected to be an intern in their Truluck Center. However, once the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., Heritage ultimately decided to cancel the summer programming for the safety of their interns. That’s when the Young Leaders Program decided to create The Academy, an online 12-week program created in response to COVID-19.
As an applicant of the Young Leaders Program, I received an invitation to join the inaugural class of Academy Fellows. I thought it would be the most productive way to spend my summer; I could continue to propel my involvement in the conservative movement while exploring challenging policy issues. The Academy is designed to educate students, young professionals, and civic leaders on the foundational principles of American political thought and the important policy debates facing our country today. Academy Fellows come from various backgrounds and political ideologies, ranging from liberal to conservative. As a conservative, you will be afforded the opportunity to be around like-minded individuals, while also having your arguments challenged by your liberal counterparts, which I believe is important for growth.
What has been the highlight of participating in The Academy?
The highlight of participating in The Academy has been forming professional connections with other Academy Fellows, Young Leaders Program staff, and Heritage policy experts. Nearly everyone I’ve been able to connect with in The Academy has been valuable to my growth and development as a young conservative.
Another highlight of my Academy experience has been the opportunity to participate in an optional capstone project, through which I’ve been able to get to know and have intellectual conversations with a small cohort of 12 Academy Fellows. We work closely together over the course of the 12-week Fellowship, discussing an assigned policy area based upon our individual interests. Ours is criminal justice reform. In a time like this in our nation, it is incredibly crucial that liberals and conservatives alike come together to talk about everything from common sense solutions to reforming our current justice system.
How did your experience as a NeW leader prepare you for this opportunity?
I would not have been selected for The Heritage Foundation Young Leaders Program or The Academy without NeW. NeW has helped me improve my confidence and propel my personal and professional growth since high school. It’s incredible to think that I began my journey with NeW when I was 17 years old, and to think of how far I’ve come as a young female leader since that time.
Throughout my experience with NeW, I have been given the opportunity to empower and mentor other young conservative women through founding and serving as President of NeW at College of Charleston. I was able to provide our members with opportunities and resources that encouraged them to become effective leaders, including bringing speakers to campus, hosting professional development workshops, and attending networking events in the Charleston area. NeW helped me find confidence in my conservative views, as well as my passion and motivation to lead others. I’m grateful that NeW recognized these leadership qualities in me and chose to invest in me by recommending me to other programs within the conservative movement, helping me publish op-ed pieces, and even giving me the opportunity to do a brief segment on Fox & Friends. NeW has equipped me to be bold in making my case for conservatism.
What advice would you give other conservative women interested in professional development opportunities, such as The Heritage Foundation Academy?
I would share a piece of advice that my dad has always shared with me, “You’re ninety percent ahead of most people if you simply just start.” Take advantage of every opportunity that is at your disposal. As bold young women, we have the power to control our own future. We will not attain our goals unless we first take the initiative to reach them. Seek out opportunities that NeW provides, such as networking events, the NeW National Conference, and even starting a campus chapter! Look for educational programs like The Academy, and other professional webinars and trainings that come out of The Heritage Foundation. Take advantage of opportunities that will serve as a road that leads you to your ultimate goal. Getting involved with NeW and running a campus chapter has been my road, and it can also be one for you, so long as you “just start.” I can say with confidence that your initiative will not go unnoticed.
Want to become a leader like Charlotte and gain access to top opportunities in the conservative movement? Become a member of NeW today.