Run and Win workshop inspires the next generation of leaders

Run and Win workshop inspires the next generation of leaders

On Thursday, April 21, the League of Women Voters Westchester hosted its annual Running and Winning Workshop at Manhattanville College’s Reid Castle. Twenty-five *elected women from across Westchester met with 42 *high school students from our county. Run and Win is a unique and inspirational workshop that aims to inspire and encourage young women to run for office. In addition to supporting students’ aspirations to hold public office and develop their leadership potential, another aspect is to help our government institutions increase gender parity.

This year, the event was chaired by Elissa Rouback and Lea Dembitzer. Dembitzer, commented: “Running and winning is a unique and important opportunity. We are very proud to offer this special event to students and grateful to elected officials who volunteered their time and told their stories to inspire the next generation of leaders.

The young *women who participated (the League employs an inclusive definition of “woman” and “woman” and welcomes all who identify as such) were selected by their school administrators and teachers to participate in this program. The program agenda included both learning from elected officials’ experiences and practical application.

After a welcome and breakfast, students and elected officials heard brief remarks from several elected officials from different levels of government: Port Chester Administrator Joan Grangenois-Thomas; New Rochelle City Councilwoman Yadira Ramos-Herbert; Tuckahoe Mayor Omayra Andino; President of the Westchester Council of Legislators, Catherine Borgia; Yonkers City Councilwoman Tasha Diaz and State Senator Shelley Mayer. In these remarks, the elected officials spoke of their journey towards elected office. Administrator Grangenois-Thomas spoke of the importance of “standing on your story” and being “proud of your identity”. President Borgia said she “trusts your ideas and your words”. Mayor Andino told the students that running for and holding political office is not as “intimidating as it sounds”.

After the speeches, the students participated in three rounds of informal interviews with various elected officials who rotated around the room. After the morning sessions, the students worked on their fictional campaigns, with each student from a given group participating either; candidate, campaign manager, speechwriter, publicity/communications manager and fundraising/development manager. Potential issues proposed by the League for campaign platforms included: organizing a fleet of electric buses, marijuana lounges and dispensaries, and organizing a community mental health center. The majority of student groups chose to run with the Community Mental Health Center as their stake. Run and Win 2022 has been a dynamic and inspiring experience for everyone.
Running and Winning 2022 was sponsored by the League of Women Voters Education Fund, Westchester Community Foundation, Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, Westchester Library System, Manhattanville College, and American Association of University Women.
*LWVW uses an inclusive definition of women.

Quotes from participating students:

“This experience reassured me that my story and my voice matter.”
“This experience made me realize the impact of local government…”
“This experience taught me to speak frankly.”
“The interviews were the most interesting because there was so much diversity shown.”
“After interviewing the officials, I felt they were just normal people like us and were struggling with the same things.”
“I saw how much time and effort elected officials put into their work – they showed their passion for their work.”
“I learned that elected officials are just normal, passionate people and realized that the process of running for office is so much more doable than I thought.”
“This experience has made me more confident to pursue my dreams and take risks.”
“I found writing the campaigns to be very interesting – you could hear other people’s ideas and be creative.”
“This experience has shown me the number of local roles and career paths within government…”
“Most (elected) women did not expect to be in government and chose to get involved when they saw a problem. Initially, I thought most officials were still interested in politics.
“This experience taught me that all levels of government are important and that you can hold a position while having other careers.
“This experience made me realize that the chosen ones were more like us than I initially thought.”
“This experience made me feel like my feelings, ideas and experiences were valid and that just because I’m a woman, I could succeed in politics.”
“Everyone I spoke to mentioned stories of their failures, which was pretty reassuring to hear. If you fail at first, you can always try again.
“This experience has shown me that I can do anything…no matter what.”