IGNITE is excited to announce the return of our Raleigh-Durham Fellow, Julia Perrotta, as she enters her second year in the fellowship! After a year full of success, Julia is coming back more ready than ever to serve not only the women in Raleigh but across North Carolina as well. We are catching up with Julia to hear her take on the lessons, experiences, and fun she had last year and how she plans to make big moves this year.
IGNITE: Welcome back, Julia! We are so excited to have you join us for another year. What inspired you to come back as a second-year fellow?
JP: When I think of defining moments, IGNITE truly tops the list. I cannot help but feel waves of nostalgia, gratitude, and most of all, love. And because of that gratitude and love, I am committed to continuing to show up for my community. IGNITE strengthened, enlightened, and inspired my voice and confidence as a leader and young woman! I am eager to continue serving, building, and empowering the community in Raleigh/Durham by eagerly learning, listening, and leading.
IGNITE: You have made such an incredible impact in Raleigh-Durham from your work with IGNITE College Chapters to the North Carolina state legislature. What other changes are you hoping to make possible in your community?
JP: One thing I want to change in my community is who is at the table having conversations and how those conversations are held. First of all, 24/27 of the State of North Carolina University School Board are white males. This pattern ripples across the entire state. Furthermore, there is a hesitation to boldly discuss the deep-rooted injustices and issues and drive bold and inclusive change. We can no longer be complacent. We can no longer turn away from uncomfortable conversations. I look forward to facilitating honest, bold, inclusive, and allyship-building conversations that result in action.
IGNITE: Throughout this past year, we have seen you grow and develop into an admirable leader and changemaker. How have your previous leadership experiences and time with IGNITE helped you become a political powerhouse?
JP: All of these opportunities within IGNITE brought me such joy and purpose. My various experiences in political leadership have taught me the power of connecting with others, listening and learning, and being a bold agent of change. I have learned about policy research, social media recruitment and engagement, networking, research, hosting events, building community spaces, and leading teams to achieve a goal.
IGNITE: Much of your work is rooted in civic engagement, advocacy, and community organizing. Why do you believe other young women should continue to be civically engaged and involved with politics?
JP: Civic engagement is the dedication to bettering the wellbeing of communities. It is vital to build a government and systems that serve all, drive impact and change, and ensure systems are responsive and responsible to all people. Through IGNITE, I have discovered my passion for learning how to empower civic engagement in communities and building those spaces and how to do so. We have seen what happens when not all voices are at the table for too long. By empowering civic engagement through using listening, learning, allyship, and action, we can cultivate spaces where all voices can be at that table and better the wellbeing of our communities.
IGNITE: IGNITE's presence in North Carolina has grown so much under your leadership. What do you have planned for this upcoming year to continue the momentum and impact you created last year?
JP: I have learned so much about genuine mobilization and movement through this fellowship. A special bond is formed by curiously, genuinely, and intentionally reaching out to others and wanting to know their "why," what drives them, and why they show up. Community building energizes and strengthens, as well as expands the opportunities to be involved in IGNITE. As a year-two fellow, I plan to utilize my passion for intentional relationship building and expand the opportunities available for community members to get involved in IGNITE through fostering relationships with elected officials and community-based service organizations. I also look forward to continuing to pour into national events and leveraging those resources to ignite the movement of building political power. I am committed to building a movement of womxn ready and eager to flex their political power to serve their communities.
IGNITE: As you enter your second year with IGNITE and reflect on your growth as a leader, what advice would you give to other young women trying to find their unique way to lead?
JP: Leadership, to me, is eager, genuine, and intentional listening and learning. Only when we take the time to truly listen and pour into the lived experiences and perspectives of others and embrace continuous learning with humility and curiosity can we effectively lead. Because to lead is to serve others, and to serve others, there must be an intention to value, respect, and learn from those you serve. The most life-changing and beautiful part of my IGNITE experience has been the people I have met and their lights, perspectives, and lived experiences that have inspired my own leadership. I also strived to listen and learn from college chapter members, college leaders, and elected officials within North Carolina. And the wonderful bonds with elected officials have inspired what I want to change and impact in North Carolina as a community member, citizen, and young woman who wants to run for office one day.
IGNITE: At IGNITE, we're trying to broaden the definition of what it means to be a political leader. It's so much more than just being an elected leader. Political leaders can also be community organizers, policymakers, and campaign staffers. What leadership role do you identify with, and how do you want that to play out in your political career?
JP: That is a great question! I would have to say policymaker. This summer, I worked as an intern for a pro-democracy non-profit in North Carolina and had the opportunity to research legislation and policy regarding voter list maintenance, as well as draft a memo of key recommendations to the State Board of Elections to make elections more accurate, efficient, inclusive, and ultimately pro-voter! This experience allowed me to understand the power of collaborative, curious, and innovative policy research and the true impact it has on the lives of so many! One day, I hope to serve as an international human rights lawyer and advocate for policy that empowers women and girls' health, well-being, and prosperity across the world.
IGNITE: Thank you so much, Julia. Is there anything else you would like people to know?
JP: I am so excited to be spending another year with such a wonderful community of women and meet the 2021-2022 cohort!
More about Julia
Julia Perrotta is IGNITE's Raleigh-Durham Fellow. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Political Science with a minor in philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Most recently, Julia served as a policy research fellow for Democracy NC, where she championed access to voting and civic engagement. Julia also conducted research to improve voting processes, which she presented to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Julia served as a UN Experiential fellow for Blue Ridge Consulting. Previously, she volunteered for Gina Collias, a Congressional candidate who ran in her hometown district. Julia plans to continue involvement both on and off her campus to boost civic engagement and voting opportunities, raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault, and create empowering spaces for women and girls. Julia's goal is to attend law school to advocate for the civil, human, educational, and political rights of women and girls worldwide. For Raleigh-Durham inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.