Posted Suzanna McCloskey on 7/8/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
This year, Girls on the Run will serve its one-millionth girl! We’re honoring this milestone by celebrating what makes each of us one in a million and by showcasing some one-in-a-million women who have made exceptional contributions to empowering girls and women.
Kind Campaign is a documentary and school program based upon the belief that KINDness brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying. In 2009, Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, both affected by female bullying, decided to create a documentary and nonprofit that would address this issue and ultimately affect hundreds of thousands of people across America. The girls have gone on three national tours, spreading their school assembly program and documentary film in schools and communities nationwide.
Here’s what Lauren and Molly have to share about being one in a million.
Q: Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams! How did you start to realize your own limitless potential and pursue the path to where you are today?
Lauren: I had always had a deep passion for starting a conversation about girl-against-girl bullying, but had no idea what that looked like until I had the opportunity to work on a documentary film while attending Pepperdine University. That experience, while realizing the immense amount of good documentaries can do inspired me in a way I had never experienced before. The summer before my senior year, I sat down with my friend Molly and we talked about what it could look like to make a documentary about girl-against-girl bullying. At that time, bullying was not a national conversation so we had no idea how people would react. However, we knew there was a deep societal problem that had been swept under the rug for generations and we just kind of looked at each other and realized that if someone doesn’t just do something, nothing will ever change. We dove into the project head first and immediately realized that when you pursue a dream with your heart in the right place and you work really, really hard, you can do anything you set your mind to.
Q: Of all the traits and achievements that help make you one in a million, what stands out most to you?
Lauren: I know that I will forever be able to identify the work we have done with Kind Campaign as being one in a million. We tackled an issue seven years ago when no one was talking about it and we were determined to create change. Since the founding of our organization, we have spoken in hundreds of schools and our film and curriculua have been implemented into thousands of schools and communities across the world, making Kind Campaign the premiere anti-bullying movement for girls. Over the last couple of years, we have fundraised in a way that now allows us to offer all of our school programming free of charge which is a goal we never thought we could reach.
Q: Girls on the Run believes that big things are possible when you keep moving forward. Can you share an example from your own life?
Lauren: Crossing the finish line of any adventure or project feels so incredible and is a reminder that you can do whatever you set your heart to, like when I held a finished DVD of our documentary, Finding Kind, for the first time. To have an idea, watch it grow and then to be able to hold the final product is beautiful. The actual production of Finding Kind took about a year and there were definitely moments when creating a finished product worth watching felt like an impossible feat. Going into the editing process with hundreds of hours of footage and no script was overwhelming in a way that I don’t even know how to put into words. I ended up in the edit almost every day for nearly eleven months and each day was like chipping away at a massive block, hoping that by the end of it, there would be something beautiful to look at. The moment when we sat down and watched the finished film from beginning to end was one of the most proud and emotional moments of my life.
Q: Which one of the core values of Girls on the Run resonates most with you and why?
Molly: If I had to choose one, I would say, "to express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions." If everyone lived out the mission of that one core value every single day, it would infiltrate every aspect of our lives and would serve as a breeding ground for the other core values to naturally be a part of everything that we did. Placing this as the core value in my life helps me to be intentional in every decision, every relationship and every thought to ensure that it is made with a kind heart for others and myself.
Q: One of the many things our curriculum teaches girls is how to recognize and work through challenges in productive ways. What is a challenge you have faced (or still face)? How did/do you respond, and what have you learned from it?
Molly: There are so many facets within Kind Campaign, and each one has presented different struggles as we’ve grown over the last six and a half years. But I place my focus on how we overcame those difficulties, which is by learning and growing from those experiences. During the early stages of starting a nonprofit, making a documentary and going into business with a friend, we faced countless obstacles. But, we also learned priceless life lessons during that time that ultimately granted us the privilege to peek into the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people that we’ve met on this journey, which allows us to continue learning from our experiences. We have learned not only how broken so many girls across the nation are, but more importantly how resilient and ready to create change they are as well. We have learned the value of kindness and how giving people can be. We have learned to fight for what we believe in, even if the battle may seem overwhelming and present unexpected roadblocks. We have learned the value of female friendship and how important it is to surround yourself with people who lift you up, celebrate you and are there for you. Therefore any challenge that has come our way has been entirely worth working through because of the people we are fighting for, and keeping them at the forefront of our minds is how we overcome the obstacles that we face.
Q: What insight or advice would you offer a young girl today? What would you say now to your 8-year-old self?
Molly: You are going to be okay. Undoubtedly there are times in every young girl’s life (and adult women as well!) where she feels like whatever it is that she is presently going through is too much. Too much pressure, too much drama, too much self-doubt, too much sadness, too much anger, too much guilt, too much anxiety, too much something. And it seems like that overwhelming feeling is going to last forever, but the reality is that life is fleeting and moments in time pass us by so quickly. So when those moments happen, put things into perspective and remind yourself that you will get through whatever it is that you are going through. You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are worth fighting for, and don’t let any situation or person in life make you think anything differently of yourself.