After four years with Girls on the Run Memphis, Kelly Jo Graves’ passion for the program runs deep.
As a current board member and incoming board chair of the nonprofit organization, Graves reflects on her time with GOTR Memphis and her hopes for the program’s future endeavors.
While serving as a fitness and nutrition coach, Graves took on the role of starting a girls' running club at Cornerstone Prep School in 2015.
After three years of coaching, Graves learned about Girls on the Run through a fellow coach. While the running club at Cornerstone provided an outlet for its female students, she said she craved more structure and mentorship.
“We just knew we were all passionate about trying to empower young girls and helping them find a love for movement and exercise,” she said.
Thus, she connected with the upcoming nonprofit and decided to convert her team to a Girls on the Run team. The program not only provided more logistical resources for the girls at Cornerstone, but it pushed them to develop emotionally and socially.
“When Girls on the Run came along, and we learned about their curriculum and how it was set up, it was a no brainer,” she said. “The curriculum and the things we teach the girls are life skills. They’re things that we all need, and I think especially sometimes as adults, we tend to forget.”
Graves admires the organization’s ability to mirror the diversity of the Memphis community, she said. By building teams, coaches and staff from all walks of life, girls within the program are able to effectively learn through a holistic lens.
Additionally, Graves was prompted to become involved because the program’s teachings on confidence, empowerment, and communication align with her passion for equipping the youth in Memphis with the tools for success.
As a member of the Junior League of Memphis, a volunteer organization centered around youth development, and the Le Bonheur Club, a female-led group dedicated to raising money for the hospital, Graves has been an active member in creating a meaningful impact in the community’s youth.
Looking forward as the program’s upcoming board chair, Graves said her primary goal is to continue to expand its influence to as many girls as possible through partnerships with schools and community centers.
“To make the biggest difference in our city, we have to make sure our children know of the things available to them,” she said. “Truly, they are our future.”