Redefining the Run for Political Office

On March 14th at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, I was elected Running Start’s #ILookLikeAPolitician Ambassador by a room full of Washington’s most influential political power players.

Yet my journey to become Running Start’s #ILookLikeAPolitician Ambassador began long before then. Three years ago, I was (and still am) a young woman who did not have the financial backing or resources to pick up and move to DC to take an unpaid political internship. Running Start provided me the opportunity to work as a fellow for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. I also received political mentorship, leadership training, free-of-charge housing, and a stipend for my work. My Capitol Hill fellowship, sponsored by Walmart, helped me be more prepared and competitive when I applied for a White House internship. Because of my strong experience, I was selected as the only White House communications intern to serve in the Chief of Staff’s office during my time in the Obama Administration.

I have always been grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Running Start family. So, when I received word of the Running Start #ILookLikeAPolitician campaign simulation contest, I decided to enter. The contest included fundraising and garnering support and votes. Like many women who are deciding if they want to run for political office, I too was a little bit apprehensive. I wondered if I knew enough people, if they would donate, or if I would be successful. A beautiful lesson in that experience is the need for us to take risks. As one of my Spelman College sisters Sammye Scott so eloquently stated, “Taking risks in life is pertinent. Risks help cultivate your character and embody fearlessness. When you take a risk, you build the courage to fight the fear of the unknown.” That is exactly why it’s important for women to run for office. Like so many of my peers, I would soon realize I was underestimating myself and was more than qualified to enter the competition.

At the beginning of 2018, I began my campaign and pledged the first 10 days of the new year to raise $1K for Running Start. In just over 10 days, I was able to raise $1.2K to train women who aspire to run for office, which made me the top fundraiser in the competition. My fundraising success further confirmed that I was indeed underestimating myself and strengthened my confidence in situations where I was leery of the unknown.

My fundraising success led to me being selected as one of the seven finalists from across America to present a competitive speech at the Young Women to Watch Awards a few weeks ago. With votes from the attendees, I was elected the #ILookLikeAPolitician Ambassador. The audience used a ranked choice voting system (powered by Opa Vote), that organizations like FairVote and Represent Women argue creates a better, fairer platform for voting, and which eliminates the need for runoffs.

In a room full of opportunity, I was inspired not only by my fellow finalists, but by the limitless possibilities presented when all people — regardless of gender, ethnicity, or economic background — join together for equality. Though the people in the room that night were supportive of women leaders in politics, my fellow finalists (who are also very accomplished and qualified) and I know the world we live in today does not mirror that room. We all have dealt with obstacles rooted in sexism.

My obstacles, however, looked a little different. In 2016, I was crowned Miss District of Columbia. Despite many who encouraged me not to, I competed with my natural hair at Miss America and even won the swimsuit competition. I am sure it confirmed to many that as a beauty queen, I did not look like a politician. However, as a military kid from Georgia and a graduate from Spelman College, I know better than to believe those who doubt me. If I listened to every person who doubted my intelligence, I wouldn’t have graduated from the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. If I listened to every person who doubted my strength, I wouldn’t have become a fellow for Congresswoman Gabbard. If I had listened to every person who doubted my resilience, I wouldn’t have become the only intern in my class to serve in the office of President Obama’s Chief of Staff.

For this reason, I encourage every person to never listen to their haters, naysayers, non-supporters or even their own self-doubt. Only you were given the vision into your future and greatness. You, and only you, know the gifts you hold. It is our responsibility to develop our gifts and let our own light shine.

I share my story to redefine what it means to look like a politician — not just for myself but for all women. I know when I let my light shine, others will be encouraged to let their light shine too. I am honored and look forward to furthering the mission of Running Start to train young women to run for political office.


Cierra Jackson is a proud alumna of Spelman College and the Women’s Campaign School at Yale. Also a proud military kid from Georgia, Cierra moved to DC to pursue a career in politics. She served on Capitol Hill and the Obama Administration. In 2016, she was crowned Miss District of Columbia and competed for Miss America. Cierra is an avid speaker and vocalist by trade. She has hosted galas and even performed in the Obama White House. You can find more information about Cierra at Follow Cierra on Instagram @cierradjackson and on Twitter @Cierradjackson_ .

Keep your eyes on these “Young Women to Watch”!

Meet the incredible Running Start alums competing to be our next #ILookLikeAPolitician Ambassador! Celebrate young women in politics, hear from these inspiring young women, and vote for the next ambassador at the Young Women to Watch Awards on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Click here for more info and tickets!

Additional speakers include: Reps. Yvette Clarke, Barbara Comstock, Will Hurd, and Tim Ryan; Ruth Marcus, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Post; Anita McBride, former COS to Laura Bush; Sarah Chamberlain, President & CEO, Republican Main Street Partnership; Sandra Pepera, Director of Gender, National Democratic Institute; Rosie Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States; Eshauna Smith, CEO, Urban Alliance; Sharon Yuan, Managing Partner & General Counsel, The Asia Group; former Rep. Connie Morella; Running Start Board CoChair Tasha Cole, Vice President of Development, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; and Running Start Board CoChair Laura Cox Kaplan, Host & Creator, She Said/She Said Podcast.

Victoria Bright is Assistant Director for Alumni Engagement at Duke University, her alma mater. In this role, Victoria develops strategies to engage 70,000 Duke women in the U.S. and abroad in the life of the university and create opportunities for learning, leadership and mentorship. She previously served as senior aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi where she developed and implemented integrated communications, outreach, and legislative tactics designed to strengthen and maintain the Speaker’s position in her Congressional district. Victoria managed logistics for President Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration and the 2015 visit by His Holiness Pope Francis to the U.S. Capitol. She also served as policy aide to the Speaker on health, veterans and judiciary issues. Victoria earned her B.A. in Women’s Studies from Duke in 2010 and was a 2011 Running Start Star Fellow.

Sydney Burns’s career in politics was truly kicked off by Running Start. After completing the Running Start summer internship, she immediately applied to the Running Start Star Fellowship. As a 2017 Star Fellow, Sydney worked in the office of Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and continued her internship after the Star Fellowship ended. Sydney then worked in Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Capitol office as a communications intern. From there, she was hired by the Committee on House Administration as a Staff Assistant, where she currently works with the Franking Director, the Election Assistance Director, and the Diversity Initiative Director. Sydney graduated from West Virginia University in 2017.

Megan Lehman is a proud Iowan and plans to run for North Liberty, IA City Council in the next two years. As a 2015 Running Start Star Fellow, Megan worked in the office of Senator Joni Ernst. After the Star Fellowship, Megan attended the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. These experiences empowered her to begin her political career by applying for a local commission in her town. She was recently selected to join the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Legislative Council. Megan is currently writing a book about women running for office. She is also looking forward to volunteering for the next Iowa Governor’s race, as the state could have its first elected female Governor. Megan graduated with honors from the University of Iowa.

Anna Captain is a 2017 alum of Running Start’s Young Women’s Political Leadership Program. Since then, she has interned for Manka Dhingra’s campaign for Washington State Senate, recruiting and training volunteers, entering voters into the campaign’s database, and organizing for a special election that flipped the Washington State Senate. Anna has had multiple articles published about women’s leadership and plans to be very involved in the midterm elections later this year. Anna is Media Chair for Leadership Initiatives, where she works with other students to help a struggling business in Nigeria flourish under harsh conditions. At her high school, Anna is Junior Class Vice President and Philosophy Club President.

Lauren Covetta is a champion for mental health and women’s empowerment. She is a sophomore studying International Business and Political Science at the Ohio State University. Lauren was a Running Start intern in 2016, and since then, she ran for and won the positions of Fundraising Vice President for Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity, and Corporate Relations Vice President for the Undergraduate Business Women’s Association. She was also appointed Director of Business Operations for the Student Philanthropy Council. Lauren was a Non-Profit Management Intern with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and worked within the Columbus community to provide free mental health resources. She has also led a social media campaign for the Center for International Education and Research’s international programs.

Cierra Jackson is a proud alumna of Spelman College and Women’s Campaign School at Yale. She was selected as the only White House intern to serve the Chief of Staff as their communications intern during her term in the Obama White House. As Miss District of Columbia in the Miss America Organization, she created the 1st annual Miss District of Columbia’s Day at DC Council. A military child herself, Cierra focuses her advocacy on her platform Behind the Frontline, to aid military children. She created the “Day of the Military Child” and has been featured in numerous publications and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces campaign. She is the author of a children’s book “CC the Military Kid,” that chronicles her life as a military child through September 11th and beyond college. Cierra is speaker and vocalist by trade, and is a 2015 alum of the Running Start Star Fellowship.

Brooke E. López ran for City Council in her hometown of Wylie TX at age 18, making her the youngest candidate in the history of the town. Though she lost, Brooke was appointed to the Public Arts Advisory Board where she currently serves as the Vice Chairman and is the youngest member and only Hispanic woman member. An alum of Running Start’s Young Women’s Political Leadership Program and Young Women Run, Brooke has worked as a Program Facilitator for IGNITE National, served as a Texas Civic Ambassador for the Annette Strauss Institute of Civic Life, and began forming a Commission on the Status of women for Dallas County (the first of its kind). Along with Texas State Representative Victoria Neave, Brooke advocated for Nahum’s Law in response to the tragic death of a classmate. Brooke graduated from UT Dallas where she wrote her honors thesis on women’s political candidacy.

Click here for more info and tickets!

Young and Republican

It’s funny. I never considered myself to be a Republican. I’m actually a registered Independent. But, after spending a long time as the political girl without a party, I am starting to ask myself why I have not joined one.

That’s because I would join the Republican one. As a 21-year-old college student in Washington, DC, Republican isn’t just a bad word, it’s a polarizing one. “Republican” is like a road block: people see it, but they are too frustrated to understand the reasons behind it. My fear of committing to the word has nothing to do with the party, it has to do with the way the party is perceived and the way people in it are stereotyped. I do not want to label myself if the label is a bad one.

Among many of my peers, Republicans are stereotyped, and they are unliked as people as much as their policies are unliked. There’s truth to that perception because demographically, they are older, they are whiter, and they are richer. For a young woman paying her own way through college, it is difficult to see myself in that stereotype.

Some of the hostility is because Democrats have better messaging. They even have Hollywood. Republican stereotypes say, “I hate minorities, transgender people, the black community, homeless people, and feminists.” It would mean I want less government and more guns; that I want the government to hold religion over individual rights; that I want to increase military spending and even have a military parade. That’s the what critics assume.

That stereotype of Republicans does not represent who I am at all. My freshman year of college when I was the class representative for College Republicans, I was also the treasurer of CUAllies, an unrecognized LGBT group on Catholic University’s campus. As I was walking to my Republican internships on the Hill, I was smiling at homeless people and eventually handing them soft granola bars. Right before I started interning for Fox News I went on a trip to Camden, New Jersey and learned the difference policy can make in people’s lives and the importance of raising awareness through telling people’s stories. Attending the Women’s March in 2017 is one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. All these things make me who I am. Could someone like me be a Republican?

As you can tell, I have always had a difficult time saying I am a Republican. In fact, I have never said those words out loud. For young women it is a word that can change friendships. It is a confusing label because many people believe that a Republican cannot be a feminist, even though I know young Republican women are the definition of feminists. Women like Congresswomen Elise Stefanik and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have shattered glass ceilings and opened the doors for younger women to follow in their footsteps.

I am not alone. Of millennial women registered to vote, 36% are Independents, 18% are Republicans, and 43% are Democrats. I wonder how many of those Independent women would be Republican, and if they are Independent because they do not want to commit to a party or because they are truly centrist on every single issue. What if, like me, other young women do not want to shut down the other side of the debate or join the party of the ‘old boys’ club’?

Republican women are the minority among millennials. Their unpopular views are constantly questioned with a certain passion people would not question about their own side. Unlike other older Republicans, young members of the party are in constant contact with people who have different views than themselves. For Republicans in college, it is impossible to only speak to Republicans.

Sitting in class one day a classmate asked me if I interned for Fox News. I said ‘yes’ and tried to explain to her what I did because it was exciting. In my time at Fox I was learning how to tell accurate stories, making sure my quotes were surrounded by context. Her boyfriend then cut me off and asked me why I was interning for Fox. They asked me if I voted for Trump and why. They asked me if my family did. When I gave them an answer that satisfied them, they went back to asking how I could work at a place like Fox. It was an intense interview that I was not prepared for as the professor began to write on the chalk board. But it is something that happens often (I must point out that the audience of Fox News is as much to the right as The Washington Post’s is to the left).

Even people on the right are skeptical about Republican women. It is not uncommon for Republican women running for office to lose in primaries because the base does not see them as being enough to the right. There is more focus on their stances on abortion and other so-called “women’s issues”. It is easier for a man to run a campaign focused on fixing the economy than it is for a woman.

It took a few years for me to realize that just because my political opinions are moderate does not mean they are weak. Often in debates, I find myself understanding the other points of view. If I am having a conversation with two people I often am the one in between them, turning my head back and forth wondering why they do not understand where the other is coming from. Then, I say something about it and the one on the left sees me as an opponent but the one on the right doesn’t see me as a committed member of his team. For a long time, I was so focused on not fitting into either side that I failed to realize this empathy is crucial for a leader to have. The understanding I felt was not an inability to make a decision; it was emotional intelligence.

So, I remained in the middle being passionately Independent. But I am tired of being in the middle. I have opinions about everything — researched and passionate opinions.

Admitting to this is scary, having a voice and not knowing what to say is scary. Saying ‘I am a Republican’ is scary. But finally, I am ready to declare:

I am a Republican.


Liz Friden is a junior politics major at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She currently interns at Running Start and Fox News Channel. On campus, she writes for her school newspaper, works for Events and Conference Services, leads Program Board Gives Back and is the Vice President of Events for the Student Philanthropy Council. In the past she has interned for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman Chris Gibson and New York State Senator Rich Funke. She loves the DC community and takes part in Habitat for Humanity. Originally from Rochester, NY, she loves the outdoors and is currently training for her second half marathon.

“With only one semester and two political science classes under my belt, I was elected to office.”

When I founded Running Start eleven years ago, no one understood why talking to girls about political leadership was a good idea. Why did I want to train a 15 year-old to run for office? She wouldn’t be ready to run for any meaningful office for at least a decade. But we scraped together enough money to train a small group of high school girls that summer of 2007, and we’ve grown slowly and steadily into a national nonprofit that has now trained over 12,500 young women from every state in the nation. These young women we’ve trained know that their voices are needed in politics, and they know what it takes to run. They are ready to lead.

I think the world is finally starting to wake up to the tremendous potential of young women as future leaders. A recent New York Times editorial about the lack of women in politics said: “getting women engaged in college or even earlier is especially important”. Barbara Comstock, a Republican Congresswoman from Virginia, told Red Alert: “We need to get more young women engaged at an early age, seeing themselves as being a public figure, being able to run for office,” and “I think we just need to put that idea in their head maybe a little earlier.” Politico reports that “childhood is an ideal place to begin encouraging women to think about running for office.”

That’s why Running Start works with high school and college women to get them to envision themselves as political leaders. The earlier you talk to women about leading in politics, the more it become a possibility in their lives. Here’s one of my favorite success story of how planting a seed early can work: A few years ago I got an email from a woman named Allyson Carpenter. She told me she’d been part of a Running Start program at Howard University that trains college women to run for student government. Although the Elect Her program is designed to funnel women into student government, Allyson saw a need to run in her community instead. Allyson won and became the youngest woman ever elected to DC government at the age of 18.

As she told us:

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 to 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 Washington, DC’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission. With only one semester and two political science classes under my belt, I was elected to office.

Although the Elect Her program is designed to funnel women into student government, I love that Allyson saw a greater need to run in her community instead. We always encourage our students to run for the office where they think they will be able to do the most good. Allyson gained authority and experience in this elected role which served her well when she decided to run for Howard University Student Body President. She decided to run when she saw that the slate of candidates running for the seat were all men. Building on her Elect Her training, she launched a professional-quality campaign complete with a multi-page platform detailing everything she would do for the student body while in office. Despite sexist attacks and charges of ballot rigging, she won the seat and served as one of the first women presidents in many years at Howard. She’s now out of school and serving as a Truman Scholar, no doubt on the way to even bigger and better things.

Allyson has told me that she grew up with a fire in her belly to change things for the better, so Running Start was responsible for amplifying rather than igniting her passion. But what I think programs like Running Start do so well is we give young women permission to admit to the world that they want to run, and to own the fact that they have the ambition to lead. Many of our students say the best part of our programs is being with a group of peers who share their desire to change the world. The support and encouragement they receive from each other makes their dreams seem possible.

When research shows that confidence and self-esteem peaks for women in high school or before, it may be no wonder that later in life men are 65% more likely than equally qualified women to feel ready to run for office. Reaching women at an early age is key to capturing the enthusiasm and confidence that leads a woman to consider running for office. Groups like Running Start are creating a groundswell of young women eager and ready to run because they see political leadership as a place where they truly belong.


Susannah Wellford founded two organizations to raise the political voice of young women: Running Start (which she now leads) and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. Susannah previously worked in the Clinton White House and for Senator Wyche Fowler. Ms. Wellford is a graduate of UVA School of Law and Davidson College. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her twins, Ben and James.

Training All Young Women to Run for Office

At Running Start, our nonpartisan political leadership trainings are for all women. To make that clear, we encourage women to create #ILookLikeAPolitician posts on social media to flip the script on our idea of who looks like a serious candidate. But we also know that our trainers need to be part of our message that all young women can run for office. We’re looking for new trainers from all kinds of backgrounds and party affiliations to be role models for politically ambitious young women. Learn more about our September 16th facilitator training here.

The hashtag and our facilitators work in a surprisingly similar way. We love #ILookLikeAPolitician because it shows that there isn’t one kind of person who can lead in politics. In fact, part of why we train young women to run for office is that we know it matters to have diverse voices participating in our government. Women bring their particular experiences and leadership styles to the table. The hashtag is a fun way to get that message out there and show that women are the new face of leadership.

Women, however, are not a monolithic group! We come from all backgrounds and have varying perspectives, and at Running Start, we want to train all of them. Our programs have always included diverse groups of young women: women with different ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, family incomes, educations, sexual orientations, political beliefs, and more. In keeping with #ILookLikeAPolitician, our more serious approach to creating that same role model effect is that we aim to have speakers and trainers who mirror the young women they train and inspire.

One of our best facilitators for our Elect Her program recently shared her own experience with this. She said that one of her favorite parts of teaching college women to run for student government and future political office is how the women of color in the audience gravitate towards her when the workshop is over. That’s not to say that they are the only ones who enjoy her training and want to talk to her! But there is something powerful and important about a woman of color telling the younger women of color in the audience that they can lead on campus and in public office. Women of color make up just 7.1% of Congress (compared to roughly 19% of the population). It’s hard to be what you can’t see, but this successful, confident, facilitator is telling them that they can do it.

We want that magic to continue as we grow our programs, so we are holding a special facilitator training on Saturday, September 16th. Running Start is looking for new facilitators from all the different backgrounds and ideological perspectives our participants have. Sign up for the training here. If you can’t make it to DC, look out for highlight videos we’ll post soon after.

Young women might have trouble finding someone like them to look up to in politics. But Running Start is about to turn a brand-new network of leaders into the very role models young women need.

Sara Blanco is a women’s empowerment advocate. She graduated from Swarthmore in 2012, where she studied English literature and gender and sexuality studies, and joined Running Start soon after. Currently pursuing a master of public policy at the George Washington University, Sara served as a co-chair for their Women’s Leadership Fellows Program. Sara lives in her hometown, Arlington, Virginia. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of Running Start.

#YoungWomenRun 2017

On July 17th and 18th, 2017 150 motivated young women from across the political spectrum gathered in Washington, DC for Young Women Run with the goal of advancing their leadership skills and capacity to run for office. Another 300 Elected leaders, professionals and mentors showed up as allies to support these ambitious young women.

Events like these are essential if we are ever going to reach political parity in this country. Women are 51% of the US population yet remain grossly underrepresented nationwide in all levels of government at less than 25%. Young Women Run organizers IGNITE and Running Start (the only national organizations focused on training young women to run for office)hosted the training to mobilize young women to step into political power and pursue elected office.

One of the most inspiring moments was on the first day of the event when 95% of the room raised their hand when asked who planned to run for office. The future truly is female!

For many, Young Women Run was the much-needed network and boost of confidence aspiring candidates, like Kady Cox and Marissa Alayna Navarro, needed:

“It was an honor to be surrounded by such amazingly powerful women who were not only interested in my success, but eager to support me in whatever I do. Thank you for the scholarship and allowing me to be apart of such an inspiring conference and training”. — Kady Cox, Michigan State University

“I had the opportunity to attend the 1st ever Young Women Run, dedicated to training politically ambitious young women. I was truly blessed to learn from the best and be surrounded by our nation’s present and future female leaders”. — Marissa Alayna Navarro, University of Alabama

Photo: Kady Cox with Running Start Founder/President Susannah Welford and IGNITE Founder/President Anne Moses
Photo: Marissa Alayna Navarro with other Young Women Run attendees in the AT&T studio for on-camera training

The dynamic, two-day event held at the AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment and Policy, included speakers, panels, and workshops. The speakers offered practical advice as well as inspirational stories for young women embarking on their political careers.

“Leading means a lot of different things. But I will tell you — we must have more women running for office!”

– Congresswoman Susan Brooks (Tweet this quote)

Photo: Social media savvy Congresswoman Brooks got a round of applause when she took a group Snapchat selfie.

“Nothing is more wholesome for America, for our country, for our government, for our policies, for everything, then the increased participation of women. Especially in leadership roles”.

– U.S. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Tweet this quote)

Photo: U.S. Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi in conversation with Christine Pelosi

“Surrounded yourself with a tribe that understands you want to play big in the world. My playing big in the world doesn’t mean you don’t get space”

– Jess Weiner, Talk to Jess (Tweet this quote)

Photo: Jess Weiner of Talk to Jess pictured with IGNITE Fellows Jade Goin and Tiffaney Boyd

The keynote addresses were live streamed and are available here: Former Congresswoman Mary Bono, Congresswoman Susan Brooks, U.S. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in conversation with daughtered & Christine Pelosi, 43rd U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, andand Jess Weiner of Talk to Jess. The two panels can be watched here: Support Your Lifelong Political Journey and Young and Running.

For those beginning their career in political leadership, the panel “Supporting Your Lifelong Political Journey” featured a powerhouse line up of women trailblazers in the political arena. Tips from these established experts addressed not only how to have a successful run for office but how to thrive in elected office for decades to come.

Photo: Panel on “Supporting your Life Long Political Journey”

The “Young and Running” panel tackled a question on the mind of all attendees: what’s it like to be a young woman running for office? Six young women who have run for office and are serving their communities shared their experiences running, winning, and serving.

Photo: Panel on “Young and Running”

While attendees benefited from the professional insight on these panels, the panelists also walked away from the training with some unexpected insight and inspiration.

“It was fabulous to speak to so many of the young women attending and learn about what brought them to the training and their future political aspirations. I was particularly heartened to hear that so many understand the need to reform recruitment rules and voting systems to turn women’s passion for engagement into actual representation. All of us need to work together on the many innovative and complementary strategies to win gender parity”. — Cynthia Terrell from Representation 2020

Thanks to a wide range of experiential workshops lead by experts, Young Women Run attendees now have a toolkit that will catapult them into their current and future campaigns at any level — from college campus races to statewide elections.

Photo: Catherine Baxter, Op Ed Project, Op Ed Workshop
Photo: Nikila Kakarla, LinkedIn, Leveraging LinkedIn for your Campaign
Photo: Sarah Chamberlain, Republican Main Street Partnership, Cultivating Confidence
Photo: Crystal Patterson, Facebook, Social Media in a Campaign Setting

A key workshop for many was the on-air media training, where attendees learned how to be on camera and deliver their message. They later practiced their elevator pitches in small groups and each group voted for the best one. These finalists returned to the studio hot seats for rapid fire interviews. All of the attendees voted in a mock election to choose the most powerful, compelling political speakers. Watch these speeches on YouTube.

Photo: Marjorie Clifton of Clifton Consulting, LLC, leading the On-Air Media Training

Elected officials joined participants for a networking reception to meet the future generation of women leaders. A special thank you to the Members of Congress for stepping away from their civic duties on Capitol Hill to meet with the next generation of female leaders.

Photo: Congresswomen Carolyn B. Maloney at the Networking Reception. Check out the #ILookLikeAPolitician signs!

Attendees left Young Women Run confident and eager to become the next generation of political leaders.

“I’ll never forget the people I met, and the memories I made. More importantly, I’ll never forget the feeling I felt being among so many like-minded young women who were ready to take on the world. It gives me great confidence and hope for our country, as I know this won’t be the last I see from these amazing women.” — Kayla Mcloughlin (Read Kayla’s full reflection)

“The most impressive part of the conference was the plethora of networking opportunities. The women I met at #YoungWomenRun have exponentially grown my network into a new, more sophisticated dimensions.” — Brooke Lopez (Read Brooke’s full reflection)

Young Women Run left an impression on the leaders of event hosts IGNITE and Running Start:

“Young Women Run was such an extraordinary two days! We are at a special moment in our nation’s history. Young women are owning their political power. It’s up to us to turn this moment into a movement. I’m so glad we were able to teach these young women to run for office and do it soon!” — Anne Moses, President & Founder, IGNITE

“Meeting the young leaders who attended Young Women Run, I feel so confident about America’s political future. Our goal at Young Women Run was to give these aspiring leaders the contacts, skills, and inspiration they need to seriously consider running for political office. I’m confident we accomplished our goal!” — Susannah Wellford, President & Founder, Running Start

Need more #YoungWomenRun inspiration?

Stay in touch with IGNITE and Running Start to receive announcements for future events.

Check out photos from IGNITE, Running Start and our Media Partner The Representation Project. Search the #YoungWomenRun hashtag on Instagram and Twitter for a strong dose of girl power and inspiration.

Follow our fantastic speakers, panelists, facilitators.

Thank you to our Keynote Speakers

Thank you to our Panelists

Thank you to our speakers and facilitators

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, Sponsors, and Media Partner

Finally, thank you to the team behind Young Women Run!

The best part of #YoungWomenRun? Meeting a network of young women passionate about political leadership.

If you want to find a room full of inspiring young women from across the nation infused with a passion to serve their communities, then you’ve come to the right place. IGNITE National and Running Start created their inaugural #YoungWomenRun, a training for outstanding college and young professional women who plan to run for office, which took place last month in Washington, DC. Speakers included outstanding individuals such as Former Representative Mary Bono, 43rd Treasurer Rosie Rios, and Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 115th Congress Nancy Pelosi. During this two-day event, participants were not only exposed to leading women within government across the nation but representatives from top-of-the-line organizations like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Solidarity Strategies, and the Op-Ed Project that presented on valuable tools to help a political candidate run for office. In addition, other politically-engaged nonprofits participated on a panel to provide additional training and support for participants, including RightNOW, She Should Run, VoteRunLead, Empowered Women, Representation 2020, Latinas Represent, and Higher Heights.

As a participant who had previously run for public office, who is a Running Start alum, and who currently works for IGNITE as a Program Facilitator, I took on a double role of sharing my story with other young women aspiring to run for office while gaining as many tools and networking opportunities as possible. I shared my story towards political engagement through an online live interview with the The Representation Project, the organization behind the documentary Miss Representation.

I also participated in an impromptu elevator pitch for the training that spotlighted my early advocacy for Nahum’s Law. ​

But the most impressive part of the entire conference was the ability of participants to interact with one another. The women I met while at #YoungWomenRun have exponentially blown my network into a new, more sophisticated direction full of leading women from across the nation. I met young women who were currently running for local office, some who founded nonprofits focused on political engagement among their communities, news anchors interested in the political sphere, and female student body presidents who made HERstory on their respective campuses. I am honored to have attended this conference and met amazing women and men who have begun inspiring the next generation of female political leaders. Thank you, IGNITE and Running Start!


Brooke López is majoring in Public Affairs and Geography at the University of Texas at Dallas and started her political career at a young age. At 15, she worked with her local congresswoman to propose a bill; at 16, she founded a nonprofit, “Student of Change”; at 18, she ran for Wylie City Council; and at 19, she became the youngest member of the Wylie Public Arts Advisory Board. She’s also involved in the Delta Zeta Sorority, the Gamma Theta Upsilon Geographic Honor Society, the John Marshall Pre-Law Society, the AAUW National College/University Relations Committee, PERIOD: The Menstrual Movement, and more.