The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.
Today’s Q&A feature is Stephanie Rosendorf, Florida Attorney and community advocate. Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, Stephanie grew up in Coral Springs, Florida, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University in 2013. While at Florida Atlantic, Stephanie fully realized her passion for government, law, and public policy, and she became deeply involved in her local Democratic Party. Because of her passion and involvement, she was privileged to serve as the youngest Florida delegate for President Barack Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
After her undergraduate studies, Stephanie embarked on her legal education at the University of Miami School of Law. Here, she was privileged to be part of the Miami Scholars Program, which was started at the law school in 1997 for students who have a passion for public service as well as outstanding academic achievement. During law school, Stephanie participated in various internships and clinics that focused on civil rights, immigration, fair housing, racial and economic justice, and more. She was also a member of the Public Interest Leadership Board, the Society of Bar & Gavel, and The Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court Board, and she served as President of UM’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice during her 2L and 3L year. Because of Stephanie’s work on fair housing with the UM Center for Ethics and Public Service and the West Coconut Grove community, she was honored with the Exemplary Service to the Poor Award just before graduation. After graduation, Stephanie passed the Florida Bar Exam and was sworn into the Florida Bar. Since November of 2016, Stephanie has been working as a Commission Aide to Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. In this position, she works on a variety of important issues, including affordable housing, ending homelessness, climate change resiliency, juvenile justice, and more. Stephanie is also the Vice President of the Broward Young Democrats, a Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, and a Board Member of the Women’s Emergency Network, which provides funding for low-income women and girls who are in need of reproductive health services. In January, she began her New Leaders Council Broward Chapter Fellowship, and she looks forward to graduating in June June of 2018. Most recently, Stephanie was awarded the Broward County Women’s History Coalition Rising Star Award for her work empowering women and girls in South Florida.We caught up with Stephanie to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to future leaders.
Why did you choose this career path?
During my senior year of high school, I enrolled in A.P. U.S. Government and Politics, and my passions for law and policy were ignited on the very first day of class. Although, according to a piece of artwork I made in elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer when I was ten! In all seriousness, in addition to high school, I was exposed to brilliant, challenging professors and practitioners while at Florida Atlantic University and The University of Miami School of Law. From my undergraduate involvement with the FAU College Democrats, I was introduced to local political activists and elected officials. From that point on, I engaged in political activity both on and off-campus, and I was privileged to serve as the youngest Florida Delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. My time at law school only further cemented my desire to work in the public policy arena, as I was exposed to various inequities and injustices with overlapping legal and political origins.
Who inspired you to get involved?
There are many people who continue to serve as sources of inspiration and wisdom for me as I navigate my way through an increasingly complex political and legal environment. Rather than who inspired me, I think a more precise description is what inspired me. That “what” is the desire for a fairer and more just world, and the excitement of the 2008 Presidential Election and subsequent battles for access to healthcare, immigration reform, women’s rights, criminal justice reform, and more truly provided a sense of urgency to be active and make a difference. With that said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the many female trailblazers, without whom opportunities for me to work in law and politics likely would not exist.
How do you define a leader?
I’m in the middle of reading a book about President Dwight Eisenhower, and I came across the following quote while doing so:
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.”
I don’t know if I can say that there is just one prototype of a leader, but to me, a leader is somebody who pushes beyond the status quo, stands up for his or her principles in both times of peace and times of turbulence, and inspires others to want to contribute to the overall mission or purpose.
What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?
As the Vice President of Broward Young Democrats, I work with our Executive Board and general membership to increase youth participation in campaigns and elections, grassroots organizing and legislative advocacy, fundraising, and the pursuit of higher elected office. I am also a current Fellow in the New Leaders Council (NLC) Broward Chapter. The NLC Institute is a six-month training program that equips young leaders with the skills to run for office, manage campaigns, create start-up businesses, and more. The overall goal of the program is for NLC leaders to take their activism back into their communities and workplaces to impact progressive change. The project that I am starting for my NLC Capstone involves the analysis of local land use and zoning regulations and decisions, as well as the implications of these regulations on the supply of affordable housing. I look forward to presenting my findings in the near future. Finally, as a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, I try to make a positive impact on the lives of children who have been abused or neglected. All children deserve an opportunity to thrive, but adverse childhood experiences and trauma prevent so many from reaching their full potential. I want everyone to have a chance.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
In the interest of being concise, my top three pieces of advice for the next (and current!) generation are 1) Don’t feel like you have to strictly choose between treating your work as solely a marathon or solely a sprint, because there is a time and a place for both. We all have different personal and professional responsibilities, as well as a different pace at which we thrive. The important thing is figuring out what works for us as individuals.
2) Read, read, and keep reading! I like to think of myself as a lifelong student. The more one reads about current affairs, history, philosophy, and any other scholarship that is relevant to one’s field, the more patterns one will notice across time and institutions. This ability to capture the big picture will enable you to better pave the way forward in your own communities.
3) If you have a choice to be kind, be kind. People will always remember how you treated them, both during times of joy, as well as in times of adversity.