This summer, Elaina Grimm (’17) attended the Young Women’s Political Leadership Program in Washington, DC, organized by Running Start, a non-partisan group that supports young women in politics.
The annual, weeklong experience introduces high school students to the ins and outs of political leadership through workshops covering public speaking, media, networking, fundraising, and advocacy. Participants meet with women candidates and elected officials and learn how to get involved at a local level in their communities.Elaina reports that this year, the group “had a day on Capitol Hill, where we listened to a handful of congress people speak, and where I got to meet Lacy Clay. Turns out, he is a close friend of my grandfather’s!”
“I also got to go to the Congressional Women’s Softball Game,” Elaina says. “I saw Kamala Harris, which was awesome, and made eye contact with Kellyanne Conway as she stood a foot from me.”
The group took part in self-defense training led by a Muslim woman who shared with the group the story of an attack that prompted her to become a black belt. Two of Elaina’s favorite speakers were Adam Lisagor of Sandwich Video, a producer of viral commercials, and Angela Rose, founder of PAVE (Promoting Awareness|Victim Empowerment), who helped bring about Illinois’s Sexually Dangerous Persons Commitment Act after surviving a kidnapping.
Students also took part in a campaign simulation. “We were split into groups,” Elaina says, “and had to act as if we really were running for office. I was chosen to be the candidate for my group, which was not exactly what I wanted to do originally, but ended up being a good exercise for me, since I had to put my beliefs out there and have people work on my campaign. I usually do not like being the center of attention, so this was uncomfortable, yet helpful.”
To learn more about the program, and to hear from some of this summer’s participants, listen to NPR’s report from the conference this past June.