Be the Change You Wish To See In The World: Girls On The Run & Alexis Straka

Me, on the left, with two of our girls and two of my fellow coaches after our Spring 2017 5k.

Me, on the left, with two of our girls and two of my fellow coaches after our Spring 2017 5k.

What I’ve Learned One Year Later: The 2016 Election

I spent all day on November 9, 2016, on my couch in sweatpants sobbing.  The tears came involuntarily as I watched and re-watched Hillary Clinton in her purple-trimmed suit conceding the election to a monster.  If Hillary could get out of bed, get dressed, and give an amazing speech encouraging and inspiring us to move forward, surely I could stop crying for five minutes.  

But I couldn’t.  

As part of my Ph.D. studies in Political Science, I had spent the better part of the previous year studying, analyzing, and deeply caring about the outcome of the presidential election.  Waking up the morning after election day, all of these feelings hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt mad and sad to see our country elect someone who is so openly offensive to women, and I felt terrified for what lay ahead.  

In the flurry of post-election news coverage and blog posts, the “what can we do now” pieces really stuck with me, and (with the encouragement and level-headedness of my husband) I reached out to my local Girls on the Run council at the end of the week to inquire about coaching opportunities.  

Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization started in Charlotte, North Carolina in the late 1990s that have expanded to over 200 councils in all 50 states.  As a coach at GOTR, I have the opportunity to work with a small group of girls twice a week on building life skills, confidence, and a healthy lifestyle.  

Even though GOTR is not political (as a 501(c)3 they cannot and do not take partisan stances on political issues), getting involved in this program helped me so much in the months just after the election – and it continues to help me today.  Meeting with my girls each week brings me so much joy, and I’m proud to be a part of something that makes a difference in the world by empowering girls in my community to be leaders and dreamers.  

It has also been amazing to see all of the research and sponsorship GOTR has garnered over the past year – including academic research on the program’s effectiveness and a recent partnership with Always and Target.  This program really does help increase girls’ confidence, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

While the program is called Girls on the Run and we do train the girls to complete a 5k at the end of each season, it is about so much more than just running, and it is inspiring to see our girls working hard to be healthier, friendlier, stronger, and better each week.  

Reflecting on this process one year later, I am planning to expand my involvement Girls on the Run this coming spring – fundraising for the program as a SoleMate and helping to advertise for my local council as a part of Project Adelaide.  I am grateful to have found such a wonderful organization to be a part that aligns so well with my passions of running, healthy living, and empowering girls and women.  

Even though I struggle every day to digest the news coming out of the crazy world we’re living in, I’m thankful that such a frustrating and anxiety-ridden election pushed me to get involved in this amazing organization.  If you’re struggling with where we’re at as a country, or even where you’re at in your career or your training for that upcoming race, I encourage you to get involved in a group that is meaningful to you – no matter how small it may seem, you can make an impact and see how much good there truly is in our world.