Reflections on National YWPL 2011

August 26, 2011

This summer Running Start invited 45 of the most motivated and impressive high school women in the country to spend a week on political leadership training.  These young women came to DC on July 18th for 6 days of intensive programming designed to channel their leadership into politics.
The young women, who came from 15 states around the country, are already leading in their communities.  Many were presidents of their class, some had started community groups or nonprofits to advance causes they cared about, others participated on their local Youth Advisory Commissions in local government.  All of them were leaders.
Running Start’s goal is to channel their leadership into politics, and give them an introduction into what it means to be in elected office.  They spent the week listening to candidates and elected officials such as:

  • Tulsi Gabbard, former Hawaii State Legislator and Honolulu City Councilmember who is now running for Congress. (She is 30!)
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski, who spoke about her historic write-in election win. (She first ran when she was 40)
  • Gerarda Culipher, age 35, running for State Senate in Virginia.

They learned fundraising 101, campaign 101, networking 101 and honed these skills by role playing games that put them in the role of a candidate.  They practiced public speaking and went on camera to practice the media training skills they had learned.  At a networking reception with high level dc professionals, they handed out the business cards we had made for them, and practiced small talk with a purpose.

One of the most exciting aspects of the week was our partnership with I Live To Lead, which brings 40 international high school girls to DC for a program that shadows ours.  The 40 girls from around the world lived on the same dorm, and attended many of the same sessions with our participants.   With them we heard from the Ambassador from Singapore, Chan Heng Chee, and we went to the State Department to meet Ambassador Capricia Marshall, the US Chief of Protocol.   The Running Start participants also got the chance to hear the international girls’ stories.  We heard a girl from Afghanistan talk about life in her country, and stories of what life was like for twin sisters growing up in the Republic of Georgia.  They met young women from Cambodia who had been rescued from a brothel, and a young Saudi woman who talked about budding women’s rights in her country.

Throughout the week, the messages were clear:

  • You are never too young to lead
  • Politics needs more women leaders
  • Women make excellent leaders
  • The best decisions are made by a diversity of leaders

Thank you to the class of 2011 for their enthusiasm and dedication to pursuing the positive power of politics!

– Susannah Wellford Shakow, Running Start President & Founder

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