By Serena Saunders
Amid closing out my work responsibilities for the year, studying for final exams and baking holiday cookies with my mom, I always try to use December to reflect on the months before it. This year’s no different: I’m thinking about ways I’ve grown professionally, made new connections and tried to expand my horizons.
In particular, I’m looking at ways to reconnect with old mentors, such as professors who have written me recommendation letters and internship coordinators who connected me to other opportunities. But I don’t need anything from them now, which brought me to (what I think is) the most awkward part of networking: how do you really connect with someone when there’s no specific “ask” for them? …
By Susannah Wellford
This post is not an endorsement of any political candidates or parties.
The 2020 Presidential election is probably the most consequential election in my lifetime, and probably yours too. I know my vote has never counted more, and that the very future of our country is riding on the outcome. I’ve been meditating and drinking a lot of herbal tea, but it’s hard not to worry.
Despite huge gains for elected women in recent years — especially 2018 when we saw 36 new women enter Congress (many of them diverse BIPOC and LGBTQIA+) — America is still woefully behind the world in the number of women leading our country. Rwanda has 61.3%, Cuba has 53.2% and America has only 23.4% women in Congress. We are now 82nd in the world in terms of elected women leaders. …
By Vasundhara Kamath
It takes a village not just to shape a child’s future, but also to shape a cause such as promoting women’s political leadership. After all, the inertia of status quo needs force, and lots of it, to change its momentum. This has been at the heart of major historic endeavors such as the women’s suffrage movement, but holds equally true for efforts of all sizes.
This idea of collaboration for change runs through the foundation of Running Start. …
By Phoebe Chambers
In June, I ran for office for the first time: SGA President. I had a great group of friends supporting me. I was qualified. I had endorsements from students of every grade, gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. I posted speeches and my platform on my Instagram. I even had a great slogan — Chambers for Change.
My heart broke when the election results came out and I lost. My friends blamed it on poor turnout or technical issues with the ballot, but I thought I wasn’t likable enough. Maybe I came across as too bossy or angry with the current SGA. …
By Shania Hurtado Valbuena
My first year of high school paralleled the collapse of my country, Venezuela. I read and watched the news closely, praying for change, for progress, for the preservation of democracy and human rights. I watched as a crippling government and failed state shattered my family’s stability, as food insecurity, economic hyperinflation, and perpetual fear quickly took hold. I watched as close relatives became victims of gun violence, violent protests, and theft. I watched as what should have been a simple surgery quickly became a catastrophe as the broken hospital system lacked basic medical supplies like anesthesia.
Poor leadership and corrupt politics led my country into a state of disarray from which it has yet to recover. And yet, my power was limited. As a fifteen-year-old high schooler, there was little I could do. …
In this moment, our commitment is to the young Black women who are integral to our community and our hope for a better future. As we know, conversations change depending on who’s at the table, which is why Running Start trains young women to run for political office. The great Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (the first Black woman elected to Congress) once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”
That’s why Running Start can and will use our power to change what leadership looks like in this country. Our duty as an organization is to ensure that young Black women’s voices are heard. We will continue to work every day to ensure that Black women are strongly supported in the Running Start family, and that all Running Start participants are equipped not just to lead, but to be leaders in the fight against injustice and racism. …
By Sara Blanco
As a Latina, I’ve felt at times that my presence is contingent. I am shaken, for example, by assertions that my own country, the United States, should not welcome people like me, the natural-born citizen children of immigrants. But on the balance, I am very lucky that I don’t experience existential terror due to individual and systemic anti-Black racism. Race is complicated, and my relationship to my own ethnicity is, too. My Latinx relatives who live in the US are not safe, not even from violence or death. But the scale of our fear of the consequences of racism, the intensity of it, the history behind it, are radically different from what Black and Afro-Latinx folks face. …
By Susannah Wellford
If there is one thing Running Start is known for, it is our signature in-person programs. Literally all of our promotional materials talk about how our programs are hands-on and face-to-face. So it was more than a little unsettling when overnight our buzz words became the recipe for what not to do in the COVID-19 era. My staff was confronted with a total reset of how we think about what we do and how we create impact. But in those early days when we were still figuring out how to use Zoom and setting up our new offices in our bedrooms, I saw creativity light up my staff. …
By Yolian Ogbu
“Your life has purpose.
Your story is important.
Your dreams count.
Your voice matters.
You were born to make an impact.”
This is an English translation of what my Eritrean immigrant parents would recite to me in their native language, Tigrinya, growing up. As a first-generation Eritrean-American, my parents’ courageous sacrifices to seek out the American Dream have taught me what resilience and fighting for your dreams truly means.
Imagine a young girl who, while her 10-year-old classmates were tap-dancing or juggling for our 5th-grade talent show, decided to write and give a speech to her elementary school student body on why she would one day become the President of the United States. …
By Leela Menon
Growing up, my family always told me I could be anything I wanted to be: “Though she be but little,” they would say, “she is fierce.” (That quote continues to inspire me.) From this encouragement, I immediately set my mind on saving the world (even if I didn’t know what I’d be saving it from).
After many rounds of trial and error, I found myself studying Environmental & Ecological Engineering because I wanted to save the world from the people living on it. …