Laurie Trieger | Activist + Grassroots Organizer

An advocate for women and
the families who rely on them

Laurie Trieger currently serves as the Regional Outreach Director for Family Forward Oregon, a nonprofit that organizes and advocates for policies that help mothers and other family caregivers stay economically secure. As for her roots, she was raised by a single mom in Philadelphia. Her mother was very active in the women’s and anti-war movements at the time, so activism has always been a part of her life. Reproductive health justice was her first entry into activism—she volunteered and was later hired at the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women in Philly, an independent, feminist women’s health center providing a full range of reproductive care. This issue has stayed a part of her life through the present. In her words, “there is no single greatest fact to women’s economic stability and security than having agency over her own body.” She continues to serve as a reproductive health activist by volunteering with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

Laurie met her husband at a young age. Fueled with optimism and with their sights set on the west coast, they ended up in a small town on the Oregon coast. Her daughter was born soon thereafter and needing to make some changes that allowed for the well-being and growth of their new family, they moved to Eugene in 1987. She is now the parent of two adult children, grandparent of twin boys, and a former foster parent.

Before Family Forward Oregon, Laurie worked with FOOD for Lane County organizing gleaners (people who collect leftover produce) statewide and helped pass a crop gleaning tax credit to incentivize growers. She also served as the executive director for LCHAY- the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth, focused on public policy a government planning to reduce childhood obesity.

What do you feel are some of the greatest challenges working mothers face locally and nationally?

Many talk about the glass ceiling—a barrier that keeps minorities and women from making professional advancements, regardless of their qualifications. At Family Forward Oregon, they talk about the maternal wall—a series of institutional and social discrimination encountered by women and mothers in the workplace. Combating these barriers and discrimination are what drove Laurie to a career in grassroots activism.

In Laurie’s view, our country is not designed for us women. It is instead designed and dependent on free labor and the intersections of this labor with care, namely provided by women and people of color. Workforce and social policies only increase barriers women experience in the workplace, and her work at Family Forward Oregon aims to combat and correct these. One of the latest legislative achievements Laurie was behind is the law ensuring Paid Sick Time for Oregon workers. Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 which restricts salary history inquiries when applying for a job, a practice that disproportionately affects women and people of color who may have been underpaid in the past or who left work for child rearing, leaving gaps in employment history. This law was passed in June 2016 and implemented statewide in January 2017. It ensures workers do not have to miss pay or be penalized for staying home to care for themselves or a loved one when they are ill or need to go to the doctor. While this law provides just 40 hours a year for each worker, Family Forward is currently working toward a more long-term, comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave law that would complement paid sick time and protect those experiencing more serious illnesses or injuries, or for the birth or adoption of a new child.

What has been your path into politics?

Soon after moving to Eugene, Laurie joined her local neighborhood council. She helped develop a park improvement plan that engaged local artists and community members in creating a safe and welcoming space for their growing families. In 2012 Laurie was recruited by Emerge Oregon which identifies, trains, and encourages Democratic women to run for office, get elected, at all levels of government. She completed the intensive, cohort-based six-month training program and now represents alumna on their statewide board of directors.

What words of wisdom do you have for women trying to get involved in politics or looking to take on a new challenge professionally or personally?

For those who are politically inclined, Laurie shares that you need to understand “your why.” Your motivations should be clear to you. For any women seeking office or looking to get involved in politics, Laurie says they should “do the research, get the timing right, and get the support you can trust.” For her, surrounding herself with smart, compassionate women who don’t let ego interfere has been one of the most important tools for her political engagement. Laurie also shared that there are so many ways to get involved in politics and if elected office is not your mission, activism is an honorable and rewarding path.

Remember to prioritize yourself. Laurie suffered a bad accident a few years back when she was hit by a car. Her accident and the long recovery period renewed her commitment to maintain a healthy and whole life. It also renewed her drive to fight for equitable workforce policies. While Laurie knew she was fortunate to have an employer that allowed her adequate recovery time and flexible work arrangements upon return, she understood this was rare so must keep up the fight and take care of herself in the process. No one should have to rely on luck or the good graces of an employer to support themselves and their family.

Laurie reminds women that we are all experts in our own lives. Our real lived experiences give us invaluable insights and understanding about what we- and others- need and deserve to be healthy; physically, mentally, and economically. We should trust ourselves. When taking on a challenge, she says to “start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.”

Alison Feller | Women’s Heath Advocate + Writer

Have confidence in yourself and your abilities, and know that any potential failure is an opportunity to learn a lesson and start from scratch.

I am originally from a cute town called Contoocook, NH, but for the past 10 years, I’ve lived in the New York City area (Manhattan for the first nine years, then my husband and I made the great migration across the Hudson to New Jersey). I’m a freelance writer and editor and am a regular contributor to Women’s Health, Well+Good, Shape, and Dance Spirit, where I was formerly editor in chief.

When I’m not writing about health and wellness, I’m practicing what I preach! I’m a six-time marathoner, many-time half-marathoner, an avid yogi, cyclist, and Orangetheory fanatic. I’m the creator of the blog Ali on the Run, where I document my running and life with Crohn’s disease and am also the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m a proud rescue dog mom to Ellie, a two-year-old “couture” mix — she’s part labrador, boxer, Shar-Pei, and a million other things, and has the cutest underbite you’ll ever see — and have been married for two years to my now-husband Brian, who owns an advertising agency in Manhattan.

We’re busy, crazy people, and whenever we’re not working, you can find us outside hiking, taking Ellie swimming, or road tripping to any random town in the tri-state area that has a great dog park and wide open spaces.  

Describe how you got involved in women’s health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. What led you to your current project of Ali On The Run and what is your goal with this project?

I was definitely not a runner or wellness-minded person growing up! I was a competitive dancer who hid from the timed mile in gym class in fifth grade. I lived off Fudge Rounds (ugh, so good) and Saltine crackers growing up because they were easy to snack on during the daily hustle from school to the dance studio. I was the captain of my college dance team, which kept me active, but beyond our thrice-weekly practices, I was still living on less than ideal foods and a whole lotta boxed wine (shout-out to Franzia Sunset Blush!). It wasn’t until I graduated from college and moved to NYC to pursue my dream job in the publishing industry that I realized I should probably start taking care of myself. My roommate at the time—a Craigslist success story!—was a runner, and introduced me to the sport. She took me to get my first real pair of running shoes, got me signed up for my first four-mile race in Central Park, helped me train, and got me hooked. I’ve been a runner ever since.

I started my blog, Ali on the Run, in 2010 to document my running. I wanted to share the places I ran, the emotions I felt, and the progress I made. Then, after a handful of years working my dream job at Dance Spirit, I realized my passions had shifted—I was no longer dance-obsessed. I was running obsessed, and I wanted to write about that beyond just doing it on my blog. So I decided to leave Dance Spirit to pursue a freelance writing career, which would allow me to write for all the various women’s-specific health and fitness publications I read religiously.

I still update Ali on the Run whenever I can, but I’m also focused on my podcast now. Each week, I talk to motivating, inspiring guests—many of whom are runners, but not all!—about their lives and the decisions they’ve made to get where they are today. I’ve talked about myself for a long time, and now I love getting to share other peoples’ stories. I always leave these conversations feeling so inspired and ready to run a little faster next time. My goal is to grow the show in the running world and beyond so people who may not otherwise share their stories can be heard. I’m also using it as an outlet to touch on issues that I’m passionate about and have experienced firsthand, including life with Crohn’s disease, exercise addiction, depression and other mental health issues.

Describe some of the obstacles you face or maybe other women face who are breaking into the running world.

I think many people avoid embarking on a running journey because it looks hard or boring—and it can be! My biggest tip for beginners is to start short and slow. The first time I tried going for a run, I busted into an all-out sprint right from my front door and had to stop within 30 seconds. I declared running “impossible”—but that’s because I didn’t understand pacing. I went out too hard and too fast. If you start slow, say run for 30 seconds then walk for 90 seconds, and repeat for 20 minutes, you’ll find greater success than I did that first time! And it’s so fun to improve both in speed and in distance. Running is, in my opinion, the greatest way to see the world.

But beyond the basics—the chafing, finding the right sports bra, the injuries, and did I mention the chafing?—the greatest struggle for me when it comes to running is that I have Crohn’s disease. When I’m healthy, I can train my little heart out, and that’s a beautiful thing. But when I’m flaring, like right now, running is tough. I am in a lot of pain and have to use the bathroom pretty constantly and unpredictably. So it’s tough to get out the door, and then even if I do, it’s likely I’ll have to stop and make a bunch of urgent bathroom breaks while I’m out. Some days I’m feeling strong enough to power through and do the best I can, and other days I’m learning to practice forgiveness with myself, and I don’t push it.What kinds of changes would you like to see, either nationally, internationally or with the sport in general?

What inspiring words do you have for women looking to take on a new challenge professionally or personally?

You will never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try. It’s really easy to get and stay comfortable, both at work and at home. And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that! But the most rewarding decisions are the big, scary ones—the ones where it feels like you have everything to lose. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities, and know that any potential failure is an opportunity to learn a lesson and start from scratch. That sounds scary, but if you shift your thinking to seeing failure as an opportunity, you’re more likely to take those terrifying risks.

What are your plans and goals for your career? How do you see your future in the role of helping women achieve their goals in health and fitness?

Great question—I have no idea! I’m actually at an interesting point in my career right now. I love my editors, I love writing, and I love spreading my love for a good sweat, but I’m considering a total career change at the moment. I don’t know what that will look like in a month, a year, or five years, but I know I want to get more involved with young people, and that might mean taking a step back from my current situation for a bit. But wherever I end up, I know I want to be a positive role model for young women, my peers, and even women older than myself (age really is just a number). I want women to know that they are stronger than they think, be it emotionally or physically and that it’s never too late in life to pursue a new dream or passion.

Who are some of your major influences, people you look up to, etc.? Who are the people you want to thank for your success?

Can I thank my dog? I’m serious—she has changed my world more than I ever expected. Having a pup has taught me to take life less seriously and to appreciate the joy in the little things in life. My dog lives in the moment and is never worried about what will happen tomorrow, a year from now, or in 40 years. And sure, she doesn’t have to pay the bills (I got you, Ellie), but she’s helped me go from a totally stressed out, high-maintenance, tightly-wound woman to a slightly less stressed, middle-maintenance, unwound-most-of-the-time woman. I truly want to be more like my dog.

In terms of human influences, I love Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl) because she’s always smiling, keeps it real, and is a hugely successful businesswoman, entrepreneur, animal lover, and mom. She doesn’t sugarcoat her life, but she definitely makes the best of every moment. From a career standpoint, I admire writers and editors like Lauren Duca, Elaine Welteroth (editor of Teen Vogue), Cindi Leive (outgoing editor of Glamour), and Vera Papisova (wellness editor at Teen Vogue). They are all unabashedly outspoken and confident, informed and brilliant, and eager to help young women become successful. I love that. And in the running world, I look up to my friend Michele Gonzalez (@nycrunningmama), because she’s a working mom of two who busts her butt to run 3-hour marathons without ever sacrificing family time.

Sara Gross | Activist, Athlete + Writer

We need to combat women’s exclusion from sports with a layered approach that recognizes they were created to show off male physicality and prowess.

I’m Canadian and spent my high school years in the Middle East, near Dubai with my family. From a very young age, I observed that there are disadvantages to being a woman in our world and it really stuck with me and saddened me. In my 20’s I went to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and pursued a Ph.D. in Women’s History.

Sports always made me feel empowered and once I became aware that I had a shot at being a professional triathlete, I never looked back. I trained full-time for 14 years, was European long course triathlon Champion in 2005 (when I competed for Great Britain) and won two Ironman races including the North American Ironman Championship.

I became heavily involved in advocating for women in triathlon when a rule change in the qualification system for the World Championship meant that the pro women would not be given equal opportunity to participate in the biggest race in our sport. I have been talking and writing about women’s sport ever since!  

What kind of involvement do you have in women’s sports or professional careers? Giving women equal opportunity and solid ground to continue to develop as woman athletically and professionally.

I am the president of a non-profit called “TriEqual” that was founded by a group of 12 who felt that women and minority groups were not being treated in a fair and equitable way in the sport of triathlon.

I am the founder and CEO of a media company called “Live Feisty”. Our goal is to tilt the spotlight towards women in triathlon, other sports and beyond.

Several things have changed about women in sports and professionally over the last ten years. Describe some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time, and what your involvement has been in these changes.

The dial has definitely shifted for women in sports over the last decade in North America. I think it’s fair to attribute much of that shift to the opportunities created by Title IX and the International Olympic Committee’s ongoing commitment to equal opportunity. As a result, we have seen growing media and sponsor interest in women’s sports and a cultural shift in attitude about women’s bodies and what we can achieve.

My involvement in these changes has been a small drop in a very large bucket. So far, it has involved advocating for the professional women of triathlon and highlighting women’s accomplishment through writing, podcasting, and video.

What kinds of changes would you like to see, either nationally, internationally or with the sport in general?

My studies in women’s history and feminist theory have led me to believe that the biggest obstacle for women in sport is that, in most sports, we can’t argue from the same vantage point as other feminist disputes that have been fought and won. That is, we can not claim to be physically equal in speed and strength.

For example, in the fight for equal access to education or to vote, the winning argument was that women are of equal intellectual ability to men. It’s bomb-proof. But what can we say about sports? In most sports women will not win when pitted directly against the men (there are a few exceptions such as equestrian sport). And while there are plenty of good reasons to fight for equal opportunity and pay, it is tough to argue with dissenters without that trump card. This is the biggest obstacle for women in sport.

The truth is, we need to combat women’s exclusion from the sport with a layered approach that recognizes that most sports were created to show off male physicality and prowess. The long term answer might be to go back to basics and create platforms on which women can shine. This shift is happening already with TV productions like “American Ninja Warriors” in which female competitors can compete, and win, against anyone.  

What are your plans and goals for your career? How do you see your future in the role of helping women continue to develop professionally and athletically?

I love telling stories through media and am building my business through writing, podcasting, and video. I will always want to tell stories about amazing women. I currently produce three podcasts about women in sport through my company, Live Feisty Media and I am working on a book that will follow through on the ideas outlined in the previous question.

I also continue to advocate for women in triathlon.

Who are some of your major influences, people you look up to, etc.? Who are the people you want to thank for your success?

I always find this to be a tough question. I look up to many of the people around me for a variety of reasons. For example, I just spent the weekend doing a live broadcast with a woman called Ashley Wiles who runs a program designed to empower young girls through running. Ashley is someone who intentionally looks for the good in people and tries to bring it out. You can see it in all her interactions. And I admire that and will emulate it.

So I suppose I find inspiration in many of the “ordinary” people around me. If I admire a characteristic in someone, I find a way to be more like that myself.  

Wendy Fejfar | Physiologist + Personal Trainer

Advocating gender equality & a life of movement.

Professionally I am a Clinical Exercise Physiologist, certified Exercise Physiologist, and Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. I am also a certified running coach. I grew up outside of Buffalo, NY and relocated to Florida for my undergrad and graduate studies. I now live outside of Memphis in Olive Branch, MS. I have always been a tomboy and became involved in team sports in 8th grade. I don’t think I have stopped since!

I have always been what I would like to refer to as a “strong woman.” Growing up, I was always substantially taller than my peers, wore glasses, and was always a little awkward. With sports, I was able to embrace my height and enjoyed feeling stronger and faster with each practice. It gave me a lot of confidence. I remember my grandfather saying to me, “Girls don’t need muscles.” I would always come back with a “why not?’

To this day, this still rings true. I am so glad I didn’t “listen” to him because through my own journey with sports, I am a much happier and stronger woman, wife, and mother. With this always at the back of my mind, my ultimate goal has been to empower women to embrace their bodies and capitalize their strengths, both physically and mentally, through the use of fitness and sport.
Currently, I “work” (i.e. volunteer) as a coach for the Women Run/Walk Memphis 5K program and as a Trek Women’s Advocate.

What kind of involvement do you have in women’s sports or professional careers? Giving women equal opportunity and solid ground to continue to develop as woman athletically and professionally.

I am definitely on the small scale side of women’s sports. My goal has always to empower women using sports like running or cycling to help them feel important. Too often, women put everyone else before themselves and never take any time to work on their own strengths. I have found my niche working with more of the beginner athletes. I help encourage and coach women for their first 5K or get them out on a bicycle so they can work toward riding a long charity ride or do a race. I also teach women how to make their bodies strong through exercise thereby improving their own self-esteem which leads them to live a happier and healthier lifestyle.

As a competitive triathlete and cyclist myself, I am outspoken at local events to encourage race directors to give women an equal opportunity. Whether it be equal payouts, better race time slots, and promoting to bring in more women to races.

Describe how you got involved in women’s equality. What led you to your current position? What is your goal through your current project?

As a competitive athlete, I had to get involved in women’s equality in sport. Too often women are treated as “second class citizens.” I couldn’t just stand by and let it happen so I have been active and outspoken at our local races to push towards equality and even though we’re not there yet, progress has been made.

My current project has been serving as a Trek Women’s advocate to get more women on bikes more often. I live in DeSoto County, MS, which is one of the unhealthiest parts of the country. I have been working for the past year to get more women cycling outside for fitness and fun.

It’s been awesome to meet several women, learn about their insecurities, and push them a little farther than they have gone before. Social media has been a great tool because I don’t realize the impact I made until later I read about the ladies bragging on their cycling accomplishment for the day. It’s awesome!

Several things have changed about women in sports and professionally over the last ten years. Describe some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time, and what your involvement has been in these changes.

I can only speak from a personal and local level. I have always felt triathlon on the local level has been relatively equal. We are seeing small steps made by the bigger triathlon brands, like WTC/Ironman but there is still more work to be done.

Cycling, on the other hand, has so much farther to go. However, I have found by being proactive with our local race directors, we have made some definite strides in the right direction. In our local crit series, the women’s race was being held at 4 pm whereas the pro 1/2/3 men went off at 6:45 pm. This series is held on a Wednesday night so many women couldn’t make the 4 pm time.

After talking with the race director, we were able to move the women’s race (which is Pro 1/2/3/4/5) to the 6:15 pm time slot for the last 2 years. There are more spectators and more women participating due to this time change. Another example which happened this year at the first crit race was we women finished our race and were told there was no pay out for the women…at all. Meanwhile, my husband, who is also a cat 3 racer, had just won $100 in prime money in his race. I approached the race director and simply asked how they justified the fairness is not paying the women, who raced just as hard as anyone out there, who paid the same amount of money to register, who put in just as much time in training and preparing as our male counterparts…the women were paid.

I feel once the conversation is started and the inequality is glaring at you, it’s easy to see the injustice. However, how to improve the equality as far as media coverage and sponsorship is not as easy to answer.

Describe some of the obstacles you face, or maybe some things that frustrate you in women’s development. What kinds of changes would you like to see, either nationally, internationally or with the sport in general?

On the grander scale, I feel the emphasis on body image for women is frustrating. Even more on the sports side. I was sitting at the awards ceremony for Ironman Louisville waiting for my husband to receive his award and the winner of the female 20-24 age group was called up. They announced her splits and she kicked butt, but an older woman behind me said a little too loud “wow, she’s big.” I turned around and looked at her and said “really?’ What I saw up on that stage was a strong and powerful young woman. She may not have fallen into what fitness magazines define as “fit” but she obviously beat everyone in her age group at one of the hardest tests of physical fitness.

On a personal side, I have been trying to get more women to my Trek Women’s rides and in a discussion with some of the guys at the shop they suggested I was too “intimidating.” When I asked for them to elaborate, they said because I was fit and wore tight cycling kits, beginner women may be intimidated by me. When do we stop judging each other as athletes by how we look?

What are your plans and goals for your career? How do you see your future in the role of helping women continue to develop professionally and athletically?

Due to my “mom” responsibilities, I no longer personal train on a professional level. I am limited to my volunteer jobs and racing. I have been asked to continue for another year as a Trek Women’s Advocate and would like to extend my duties to work with the general community to make a non-bike friendly area more bike-friendly.

By doing so, I can get more cyclists out on the roads and everyone working to a better and healthier lifestyle.

Who are some of your major influences, people you look up to, etc.? Who are the people you want to thank for your success?

My mom – she was never athletic but she always encouraged me to do anything I wanted to do. She has been fighting Parkinson’s disease for over 15 years and I do things, like racing, because it’s very real that there may be a day where I will not be able to.

Wendy Whiteside – the gym teacher who told me to try out for basketball because I was the tallest girl in school. I don’t think she realized that having her encouragement to try out began my adventure and later passion for the sport.

My husband and son – at the end of the day, I am an amateur athlete. It really doesn’t matter if I win or if I lose. I am inspired by my boys to do my best and to make them proud. I hope that I am teaching my son that things aren’t always easy but if you work hard, you will achieve your goals.

So many other women I have encountered over the years – Gina Harden, Lesley Brainard, Kirsten Sass, Marilyn Chychota, Sue Aquila, Amanda Schulz to name a few. All women who empower other women without short changing themselves. They are strong women who embody their sport/profession with humbleness, strength, assertiveness, and grace.

 

Lisa Achilles | Fembassador + Triathlete

A story of incredible strength & determination.

— Tell us about your background: where you are from, professional history, background in sports and in women’s development.

I was born in Cincinnati, OH, the youngest of 3 kids.  My older brother and sister were exceptionally creative musically and artistically.  I was “just the tomboy” in our family. My family did not have much money, but I was fortunate enough to take dance classes for both tap and ballet.  I also enjoyed running errands for my mom…literally running to the grocery store, drug store or wherever she needed me to go.  I never thought of myself as an athlete, just someone who enjoyed the sheer pleasure of movement and the catharsis from the chaos of life that movement brings.

In fifth grade, I was awarded a scholarship to attend one of the best private schools in Cincinnati which was the antithesis of my neighborhood. Most of the sprinters on our team were from similar economic backgrounds and felt just as out of place in this school environment. That track was one place where we all felt we belonged.

I ran indoor and outdoor track team at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME.  I ran most of the same distances that I ran in high school but also fell in love with the indoor 50-yard dash. It was inspiring to be on the same campus that once saw Joan Benoit Samuelson run. I enjoyed running my freshman and sophomore years before an injury that would sideline me for the rest of my college years.

After graduation, I launched a professional career as an Assistant Buyer for a department store in Boston. Lacing up my running shoes once again, I turned to running as a way of blowing off the steam from a hard work day. Knowing only how to train for short distances I limited myself to the sprint training that I’d known in high school and college without much thought of the possibility of longer distances.

After I married and moved to the west coast with my husband I worked in pharmaceutical sales for a few years before we decided to have our son. When my son Carter was 2, I felt the need to do something athletic once again and trained for a bodybuilding competition. Having grown up in an era in which women were not allowed in the weight room, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to do so at age 30. I found that my sixth-month journey to winning that competition encourages a number of my female friends to wander into the weight room with me as well.

I was determined to invest as much as I could in our son and was fortunate enough to stay home with him until he was 11, homeschooling him during that time.  It didn’t take long to see that movement needed to be a part of his life as well.  His reward for finishing up school was being able to take skating lessons with me at a local rink. Skating soon turned into hockey for us both with my husband playing on a men’s team as well. Although I was only able to play for a year (I allowed my then 7-year-olds hockey schedule to take up much of my time) I enjoyed being part of a team once again.

Focus on family took many years of my attention.  I largely gave up purposeful athletic pursuits to teach my son, care for an aging parent and return to graduate school when my son went to high school.  Running did not enter the picture for me again for another 12 years.  

I had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and wanted to pursue my physical best to fight this disease. I set a goal to run a half marathon one year and joined “Foot Traffic University” at my local running store having no clue how it would be possible to run for more than a few miles. I ran with a group of women who also new to distance running and loved the comradery and encouragement that was a part of that Saturday morning group.  I ran the half marathon and continued on with that group for 5 years, becoming a pace mentor after the first year and encouraging over 49 women to cross the finish line of their first race over the next 5 years.

Three years ago my husband, at that time a triathlete with several long course races under his belt, suggested that I complete IMAZ as a means of celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.  I took on the challenge to learn to swim and train for what I previously thought was a crazy sport falling in love with it as well.

I am currently Health Resilience Team Lead for CareOregon, a nonprofit that administers the Oregon Health Plan for Medicaid and Medicare patients. As a mental health therapist, I  am embedded in a county clinic and work with medically fragile patients who have mental health and substance abuse challenges to overcome.  About 60% of my caseload are women many of whom are struggling for a larger vision of who they are what they can achieve.  I use a strength based approach to counseling to help them address their challenges by leveraging the skills that they have in a more productive manner and all the while developing new skills and avenues to employ them.

— What kind of involvement do you have in women’s sports or professional careers? Giving women equal opportunity and solid ground to continue to develop as woman athletically and professionally.

I have a passion for being with clients in that moment when they are able to see expanded opportunities and take the leap of faith to step past fear and go for it.  For me, this has often been with those who are just beginning a new sport, a new living situation, those who are escaping homelessness and domestic violence.

— Describe how you got involved in woman’s equality. What led you to your current position? What is your goal through your current project?

The need to advocate for equality has always been a part of my life as a woman of color.  While the color of my skin has always been a reason for some to think that I should not be treated as an equal, being a woman of color at times has made that challenge even larger.  I simply cannot tolerate minimizing the rights, value or potential of any person!  Part of what inspired me to get a degree in counseling was to help people wade through the self-limiting baggage that is often thrust upon them while intentionally moving toward purposeful goals in life.  

With the State of Oregon’s increased focus on reducing opioid use while looking toward alternate means of managing pain one of my goals is to advocate for funds to cover physical pursuits for Medicaid patients (scholarships for aquatics programs, swim suits, etc). Many of the women that I work with are eager to take water aerobics but are unable to do so.

As a relatively new triathlete in a part of the country in which there are few women of color involved in the sport, I am actively looking for ways to increase African American participation in the sport.

My goal is to establish a contingent of black women in Oregon through the Black Triathlete’s Association.

— Several things have changed about women in sports and professionally over the last ten years. Describe some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time, and what your involvement has been in these changes.

Women being able to use the weight room, engage in traditionally male events (pole vaulting, football, etc) has been a huge change in my lifetime.  My influence in this has been much the same that it has been in other aspects of my life.  I refuse to be limited for superficial reasons.  

In life, I have refused to be limited in my choice of education, stores in which I could shop, by whom I can have as a spouse or friend or where I can live if I have the ability to do so.  I honestly believe that my first word was not mom or dad but why!

Accepting limitations without question is just not part of my DNA!


— Describe some of the obstacles you face, or maybe some things that frustrate you in women’s development. What kinds of changes would you like to see, either nationally, internationally or with the sport in general?

As an African American child, I was often told that I would need to work twice as hard to get half as far and with far less pay.  It is frustrating to me to see that this is often the case for women as well both in and out of sports.  Sport is often a luxury to economically depressed communities further eroding the development of autonomy, sense of accomplishment and goal directed focus.  I would like to see more support for young girls and women in these communities have access to funds to pursue a sport, to engage in those that would otherwise be beyond means to pursue.  I would also like to see intentional support of the challenges that are associated with minorities who choose to pursue sports that are outside the cultural norm.  There is the potential for isolation even in team sports without such support.  I toed the start line of Ironman Arizona with 3 other African Americans out of 3000.  I know because we all went out of our way to talk to each other.

— What are your plans and goals for your career? How do you see your future in the role of helping women continue to develop professionally and athletically?

Professionally, I plan on changing the focus of my practice to working with women who are navigating changes in the season of life.  I have found this work to be to be the most rewarding over the years.   On a personal level, my goal is to encourage those new to sport to accomplish that first 5k, triathlon, or half marathon through local club involvement.  In addition,  I am partnering with a fellow sister-fighter of MS to work with women diagnosed with a chronic illness to live and enjoy life to its fullest.

— Who are some of your major influences, people you look up to, etc.? Who are the people you want to thank for your success?

I am forever indebted to the community in which I grew up.  Being raised in a culture with more emphasis on community than the individual instilled a responsibility to “give back” in me.  I long to build on the tradition into which I was born. I am inspired by the stories of women of color who were brave enough to step into a sport that was not within the cultural norm (Simone Manuel dispels the myth of my generation that black women do not swim), those who overcame challenges to excel in their sports (Wilma Rudolph inspired me from a young age) and those who repeatedly have to defend their closely held beliefs in pursuing their sport (Khadijah Diggs, Muslim triathlete). I also want to thank Barb Briody for mentoring me across the finish of my first half marathon, Sue Aquila for coaching me to finish my first Ironman and Nancy Thomas former sprinter and current Dragon Boat racer who with me, refuses to succumb to Multiple Sclerosis. I am also inspired by Marilyn Chychota for her ability to deconstruct success across a range of sports and to be successful in each.

Please take time to visit these organizations:

Black Triathletes Association

Black Girls Run

Foot Traffic Women’s Academy