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WLA Experience Opens Doors
For many women, WIN Leadership Academy is not just educational, it is transformational because the experience opens doors and creates opportunities for advancement.
For Brenda Lopez, WIN Leadership Academy was the first campaign training she received. The WLA classes interested her so much she sought out other training opportunities before deciding she would run for Gwinnett’s House District 99 when the long time male incumbent announced he would retire.
Brenda so impressed WIN List board members involved with WLA, she was named the first ever Georgia Rising Star as the group celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2015. Further, WIN List decided to award Brenda its first ever “pre-qualifying” endorsement because she was so uniquely suited to represent one of the state’s most demographically diverse districts. Her election made history when she became the first Latina to serve in the Georgia General Assembly. Brenda credits WLA training with helping her develop a strong WINning campaign plan.
Amanda Hollowell also graduated in the 2015 Class and was one of the few participants from outside Atlanta. “The experience was truly rewarding and helped direct my natural born activist instincts. The program helped me craft my skill set to engage politically in a smarter way,” she says.
Amanda applied for WLA with no intentions of running for office, rather hoping to gain knowledge of how to work on campaigns and to shape a candidate’s voice via social media. Following her WLA year, she worked as social media coordinator on the re-election campaign for Former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, who now serves on the WIN board. Amanda also managed Dionne Hoskins-Brown re- election bid for Savannah-Chatham County School Board seat and Zena McClain’s write in campaign for Chatham County District Attorney.
“Each campaign was different. But, my experience with WLA helped me shape each campaigns around the true voice and distinct style of the candidate,” Hollowell said. Now, she serves as Communications Director for Georgia’s WIN List, helping with newsletters, conference calls, social media, events, boot camps and outreach.
“I might be biased but WIN is truly the most supportive political action group for progressive Democratic women in Georgia. I am proud to be associated with such an amazing and dynamic group of women. We are creating a wonderful community for women in politics,” she said. “Who knows, with the knowledge and exposure gained from WLA and WIN, I could run for office in the near future.”
Amelia Weltner is alumnae of the 2016 WLA program, which helped her find her “voice” politically even though she hails from a family where the men have been deeply involved in Georgia politics for seven generations.
Weltner applied to WLA shortly after graduating with a masters degree in social work. An early WLA presenter was looking for a new hire at his fundraising firm and Amelia got the job. She worked on several campaigns during the busy 2016 political season, catching the eye of Rep. Stacey Evans who needed to find a replacement for her chief of staff and quickly hired Amelia.
“Knowing that Amelia was trained by WIN List gives me the peace of mind that she is prepared and most importantly was taught to look at the big picture and the practical side of politics,” said Rep Evans, who is herself a former WIN List board chair.
“I am definitely inspired when I talk to campaign managers, elected women and my classmates,” Amelia said about the more confident political voice she has developed as a result of WIN List training. “Politics has long been a men’s club. WLA offers a great opportunity to get women together to learn, organize and support each other.”
In addition to her daily work at the Capitol during this her first legislative session as a staffer, Amelia also works with a group of refugees and is a founding leader for a new non-profit, Georgia Artists for Progress. The group hopes to bridge the gap between Georgia citizens and politics through a community of artists who are committed to advance progressive causes.