Running Start is thrilled to highlight the achievements of the incredible Taryn Davis, who is the Founder and Executive Director of the American Widow Project (AWP), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together a new generation of individuals who have lost a service member in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001, over 6,400 service men and women have been killed in action, including Taryn’s husband, on May 21, 2007. Despite facing an extraordinary amount of adversity having lost her soul mate and best friend, Taryn gained inspiration from fellow military widows and set off in a direction to enthusiastically and passionately unite those who were also suffering. AWP provides a safe space for people to share stories from the heart about their losses, hosts events to unite and comfort widowers around the country, and offers a free package to all military widows as a method of lending a loving, helping hand. The AWP and Taryn have achieved countless recognitions due to their limitless capacity inspire widowers around the country. Honors include Top 10 CNN Hero of 2011, one of the “150 Women Who Shake the World” in Newsweek Magazine, and winner of the “People’s Voice Award” by the Diller-Von Furstenburg Foundation. As a young woman who was raised in a military family, I am profoundly appreciative of military spouses/widows and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis for their service member, families, and country. I look forward to hearing Taryn’s profound testimonial and the celebration of a young woman who is clearly changing the world. CNN’s Jessica Yellin will be introducing Taryn.
Anne Frank once reflected, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Student Activist Rocio Ortega, another amazing honoree at this year’s Women to Watch Awards, best exemplifies such sentiments. Her poignant prose and fervent commitment to bettering her community and the world is nothing short of extraordinary. Not only has she worked as a Congressional Page, aiding some of the greatest leaders of in our nation, but she also served as the Battalion Commander of the Garfield High School Army JROTC program, becoming the youngest individual at her school to hold such a leadership position. Through this opportunity, Rocio was able to assist JROTC students and the general student body in participating extensively in community service centered projects. In 2011, Rocio was awarded a Congressional Award entitled “Unsung Heroines” Women of the Year by Congresswoman Grace Napolitano because of her tremendous work. She is also well known for her work with Global Girl Media (GGM), a non-profit dedicated to empowering high school girls in under-served communities around the world through media, leadership, and journalistic training. Rocio has acted as a reporter and intern for GGM, and she even graduated from their training school in 2010. Rocio’s successes are representative of the incredible potential young women possess no matter their age, location, status, or gender, and I am thrilled her unwavering support for others is receiving the recognition it deserves. Hunger Games Star and Alumnae Tribute Honoree Jacqueline Emerson will be introducing Rocio.
-Amanda E. Kaster, Star Fellow Alumna and former Running Start Intern