The Power of Intangible Charity

December 2, 2013

By: Casey Spreen

As a junior majoring in Accounting and minoring in Poverty Studies at the University of Notre Dame, I have spent the past two and a half years of college looking at many numbers, large amounts of money, and various forms of legislation. Interning with Running Start has provided me with a unique opportunity to combine my studies and my interests, because Running Start is always looking at finances, participation levels, and the overall growth of the organization.

However, Running Start faces different road bumps than the typical nonprofit organization. Our actions are not as tangible as some organizations, like those of food banks or clothing donation centers. We do not provide meals, blankets, or shoes. So yes, Running Start may not look like a charity at first glance. However, I have come to realize that we are ultimately providing so much more to young women, and our society as a whole, than the traditional charity provides to the community.

A discussion in our office led us all to agree that Running Start is teaching young women how to make changes, not making those changes for them. Metaphorically, we are teaching them how to fish, not giving them the fish. The majority of the young women we educate and inspire are socioeconomically disadvantaged, from diverse backgrounds, or facing some form of adversity. They are passionate about bettering their communities and their lives. Not only are these young women advocates for equality, but also they are advocates for change.

Discussing the effects and results of our trainings and mentoring with the Running Start staff reminded me of many conversations in my Introduction to Poverty Studies course. My professor spent a great amount of time focusing on the disproportionate effects of poverty on women. Although there are government programs, like WIC and tax breaks, that are designed to specifically help women, these women need more than handouts to change their lives.

Providing a young woman with confidence, hope, and the ability to better her life and the lives of those around her can change her future. Many of those struggling to escape poverty lack the opportunity to better their lives. Running Start is providing that opportunity. These young women are our future. Not only do they understand the power of oppression and the struggle to voice their opinions, but they also have the desire to fight.

By participating in Running Start trainings, young women gain the skills and courage to run for political office. Even if these women choose to run for local office, they are still forging the way for other young women. The public service that these young women can provide is both admirable and achievable. A small change makes a huge difference. We have provided over 7,500 young women with a path to politics, connections to mentors, and the inspiration to make a difference.

The young women trained by Running Start may run for a school board position and completely revamp the most impoverished schools in their community. They may run for Senate and create legislation regarding the minimum wage. They may even run for President of the United States, inspiring countless young women to work harder than they ever have before because they see what is possible.

We are here to give them the running start they need to achieve their goals.


About the Author

Casey Spreen is a junior at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Accounting and minoring in Poverty Studies. During the Fall Semester of 2013, she is studying at the University of California, District of Columbia campus while interning with Running Start. Casey first became interested in the government during high school when she became involved in Student Council and was elected to represent thousands of students from across the Houston, Texas area through the Texas Association of Student Councils. Because of Casey’s involvement in multiple student organizations and volunteer activities, her high school nominated her to represent her school at Texas Girls State. The experience completely changed her prospective of government and opened her eyes to the extreme need for more female representation in governments throughout the world. Casey has stayed involved in student programming and has served within the Notre Dame Student Government as a Senator and a member of multiple departments. Although Casey has only been in DC for a few months, she has fallen in love with the energy and professionalism that fuels the city! She has truly enjoyed working with the Running Start team and developing her professional skills. Casey will be returning to Notre Dame in January 2014.


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