Our training programs are focused on educating young women about leadership, campaign strategy, and teamwork, without a partisan lens.

Our Impact

Running Start is committed to training a diverse group of young women to run for political office on a nonpartisan basis.

1 in 2

alums and trainers are women of color

100

trainings per year

12,500

young women trained

90%

of our alums who run win

100%

nonpartisan and issue neutral

75%

of women in Congress support our work

Success Stories

Sarah Lilly, R

Elect Her Alum

Former senate speaker, University of Maryland

Allyson Carpenter, I

Elect Her / Internship Alum

Youngest-ever elected official in Washington, DC.

Rana Abdelhamid, D

High School Alum

Founder, Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment

Sophia Houdaigui, D

High School Alum

2017 #ILookLikeAPolitician ambassador

Avery Bourne, R

Congressional Fellowship Alum

Youngest-ever elected legislator in Illinois


Antonia Okafor, R

Congressional Fellowship Alum

Founder, EmPOWERed

Brooke Lopez, D

High School Program Alum

Youngest-ever public official, Wylie, TX

Nadya Okamoto, D

Mentorship Alum

Founder, period.org

Former candidate for city council, Cambridge, MA

Jessica Smith, D

Elect Her Alum

Elected official, Washington, DC

Regina Monge, D

Internship Alum

Former elected official, Washington, DC

Imani Ross, D

Internship Alum

Former SGA senator & presidential candidate, George Washington University

Ashley Carter, R

Mentorship Alum

State Board of Education Representative, Washington, DC

Allyson Carpenter

"Running Start met me where I was — literally. I walked into my college residence hall and somehow ended up in a daylong conference called Elect Her. Lured by the free breakfast, I stayed for an experience that would alter my path forever.

They didn’t just convince me that I could run for office one day — they convinced me that I could do it right then. The only thing that stood in my way were election laws that don’t allow a 17 year old college freshman hold elected office. But six short months after attending Running Start’s Elect Her Training, I ran to represent my neighborhood, which included my college, in DC’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission. With only one semester and two political science classes under my belt, I was elected to office.

I owe a lot of credit to Running Start for giving me the tools I needed to mount a successful campaign. I owe them even more credit for the work they do to reach everyday women who come from modest means."

Our Staff

Susannah founded two nonpartisan organizations, Running Start and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), that raise the political voice of young women in America. Susannah has also trained women to run in Algeria, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Kuwait, the Maldives, Russia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

BA, English, Davidson College

JD, University of Virginia

Susannah has worked in all parts of politics — as a lobbyist, on the Hill, and even in the White House!

Susannah Wellford

CEO & Founder

Melissa worked with Mitt Romney for 10 years in the Massachusetts statehouse, on two PACs, on his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and on the SuperPAC that supported his second presidential run. Melissa has appeared in/on The Washington Post, NPR, BBC, and US News.

BS, Political Science, Brigham Young University

JD, George Washington Law School

Graduate, Women's Campaign School at Yale

Melissa was elected to represent Virginia at the 2016 RNC as an alternate delegate!

Melissa Richmond

Chief Strategy Officer

As a Latina, Sara's especially interested in empowering women of color to run for office. Her leadership experience includes participating in and then co-chairing a women's leadership development series in her grad program. Sara is a current and lifelong Arlingtonian.

BA, English Literature & Gender and Sexuality Studies, Swarthmore College

MPP, Gender Policy, George Washington University

Under Sara’s fresh leadership, Running Start’s social media presence has grown 500%!

Sara Blanco

Program Director 

Jessica's passion for college women's leadership stems from her experience as a first-generation college student, wanting to make sure all college women have the tools to navigate leadership opportunities and make the most of their college experience. Jessica's favorite part of her job is working with students on campus, and she has personally trained women in 21 different states plus Mexico and Jamaica. Jessica has also advised at the LGBT Resource Center Program at George Washington University!

Jessica Kelly

Chief of Staff 

Though a Utah native, Carly has lived on-and-off in Thailand for 3 years. She spent a summer in Chiang Mai leading a research project studying Thai political identity. In 2018 she lived in Bangkok as a Boren Fellow focused on gender equality and its relationship to democracy and US national security.

BA, Political Science, Brigham Young University

MPA, Nonprofit Management, Brigham Young University

Carly’s first experience in DC was as a Congressional intern in 2012!

Carly Madsen

Tech & Outreach Coordinator 

Ottillie is dedicated to speaking truth to power and empowering marginalized groups. As a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, she served as the Student Body President -  shifting the trajectory of institutional planning on her college campus. Her passion, drive and persistence fuel her ambition.

BA, Political Science & International Studies, University of North Carolina

Ottillie was a participant of Running Start’s high school program in 2015.

Ottillie Mensah

Development Assistant

Born and raised just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, Chloe was a Running Start intern in 2019. Her passion for political engagement and youth leadership training led her to work on multiple political campaigns and nonprofits while in Utah. During her time in college and under the direction of two professors, Chloe conducted original research on nationalism and identity in the United Kingdom. 

BA, Political Science, Brigham Young University

On the weekends Chloe likes to read, play with her cat and register her friends to vote.

Chloe Roblyer

Operations Assistant

Lucky, originally from Queens, New York is a first generation Thai American womxn who has dedicated her career to strengthening the political pipeline for womxn and the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Her passion for this work stems back to her studies and engagement with various non-profit organizations and female Congressional members who aim to politically empower those from marginalized communities.

BA, Political Science & Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, American University

Lucky was a Running Start intern in 2015 and #ILookLikeAPolitician finalist in 2017!

Lucky Sasiphong

Operations Coordinator

Susannah Wellford

President & Founder

Susannah founded two nonpartisan organizations, Running Start and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), that raise the political voice of young women in America. Susannah has also trained women to run in Algeria, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Kuwait, the Maldives, Russia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

Susannah has worked in all parts of politics — as a lobbyist, on the Hill, and even in the White House!

Melissa Richmond

Vice President

Melissa worked with Mitt Romney for 10 years in the Massachusetts statehouse, on two PACs, on his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and on the SuperPAC that supported his second presidential run. Melissa has appeared in/on The Washington Post, NPR, BBC, and US News.

Melissa was elected to represent Virginia at the 2016 RNC as an alternate delegate!

Carly Madsen

Program & Events Coordinator

Though a Utah native, Carly has lived on-and-off in Thailand for 3 years. She spent a summer in Chiang Mai leading a research project studying Thai political identity. In 2018 she lived in Bangkok as a Boren Fellow focused on gender equality and its relationship to democracy and US national security.

Sara Blanco

Communications Director

As a Latina, Sara's especially interested in empowering women of color to run for office. Her leadership experience includes participating in and then co-chairing a women's leadership development series in her grad program. Sara is a current and lifelong Arlingtonian.

Under Sara’s fresh leadership, Running Start’s social media presence has grown 500%!

Jessica Kelly

Leadership & Programs Director

Jessica's passion for college women's leadership stems from her experience as a first-generation college student, wanting to make sure all college women have the tools to navigate leadership opportunities and make the most of their college experience. Jessica's favorite part of her job is working with students on campus, and she has personally trained women in 21 different states plus Mexico and Jamaica. Jessica has also advised at the LGBT Resource Center Program at George Washington University!

Lucky Sasiphong

Operations Assistant

Lucky, originally from Queens, New York is a first generation Thai American womxn who has dedicated her career to strengthening the political pipeline for womxn and the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Her passion for this work stems back to her studies and engagement with various non-profit organizations and female Congressional members who aim to politically empower those from marginalized communities.

Our Board

Will Hurd

Republican Co-Chair

Texas Congressman

Jenniffer González-Colón

Republican Co-Chair

Puerto Rico Congresswoman

Tim Ryan

Democratic CoChair

Ohio Congressman

Yvette Clarke

Democratic CoChair

New York Congresswoman

Laura Cox Kaplan

Hunt Companies / CoStar Group

Tasha Cole

Democratic CoChair

CBCF

Alethia Jackson

Secretary

Walgreens

Angela Baker

Treasurer

Qualcomm Wireless Reach

Jana Barresi

Walmart

Rosemary Becchi

McGuire Woods

Nancy Bocskor

Nancy Bocskor Company

Peter Brown

Deloitte

Larry Duncan

Lockheed Martin

Hagir Elawad

UAE Strategies

Anne Fabry

The Fabry Group

Natalie Farr

Subject Matter

Isaac Fordjour

Boston Scientific

Karen Green

Akin Gump

Jessica Grounds

Mine the Gap

Sohini Gupta

WellCare Health Plans

Jenn Higgins

Chamber Hill Strategies

Jessica Hogle

PG&E

Emily Lenzner

Atlantic Media

Poppy MacDonald

USA Facts

Jessica Marventano

iHeartMedia

Kelley McCormick

Under Armour

William Minor

DLA Piper

Alyse Nelson

Vital Voices

Lucinda Robb

KidsGiving

Sabrina Schaeffer

Republican CoChair

White House Writers Group

See our Advisory Council

  • Heather Barmore
  • Liz Berry
  • Stephanie Bosh
  • Angela Brightman Struebing
  • Jamie Brown
  • Amy Budner Smith
  • Jill Canino
  • Marjorie Clifton
  • Charlotte Clymer
  • Karen Defilippi
  • Allison Dunatchik
  • Nadia Farjood
  • Kelly Gibson
  • Karen Goldmeier Green
  • Emily Goodin
  • Elizabeth Hagen
  • Kate Houghton
  • Kristen Hughes
  • Louisa Imperiale
  • Courtney Johnson
  • Kelly Keenan Trumpbour
  • Heather King
  • Linda Kramer Jenning
  • Melissa Lirstman
  • Poppy MacDonald
  • Neri Martinez
  • Liz Martinez Baldick
  • Jonathan McGee
  • Amanda Miller Littlejohn
  • Heather Mills
  • Kinya Mururu
  • Cathy Nyce
  • Pamela O'Leary
  • Jim Phalen
  • Prita Pierkara
  • Danielle Prendergast
  • Ali Rodway
  • Liz Sidoti
  • Christie St. Clair
  • Wendy Susswein
  • Shira Teoplitz Center
  • Sarah Venuto Perez
  • Amy Warnick Gawne
  • Jennifer Weissbrot
  • Shelley Whelpton
  • Dani White
  • Liz Wing
  • Kimberly Woodard

Our Impact Partners