Success Story: Reeves Oyster
In 2002, Girls on the Run St. Louis began on a park bench in Clayton Shaw Park with 20 girls. Today, GOTR-STL has served over 42,000 girls at 350 sites in more than 60 school districts and charter, parochial and private schools. As we celebrate 15 years of empowering young women in 3rd – 8th grades for a lifetime of healthy living, we are proud to share stories from our amazing GOTR Alumnae, like Reeves Oyster.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! My name is Reeves and I am currently a rising junior at Washington University in St. Louis double majoring in Urban Studies and Education Studies. Outside of the classroom, I volunteer with several organizations on campus including City Faces, Partners in East St. Louis, and I am the treasurer of Cultivating Connections. Furthermore, I am a member of the MO Beta chapter of Pi Beta Phi Sorority and play on the club lacrosse team. I am originally from St. Louis and participated in GOTR from third to fifth grade in one of the first GOTR teams at Captain Elementary.
What do you remember most about GOTR?
The friendships I made during my time at Girls on the Run stand out as some of my fondest memories from my time in the program. I met some of my best friends as early as kindergarten and we participated in GOTR together. In fact, we still have inside jokes from our time in the program and we’ve continue to stay in touch throughout college.
Interestingly, something that I remember and am continuously very grateful to this program for, is learning how to run for exercise. Prior to participating in GOTR, I had never exercised beyond playing sports and I definitely did not consider running as a fun activity. I remember struggling a lot while teaching my body how to run for distance and, sometimes, being very frustrated at not being the fastest or best runner on the team. But, without fail, every year that I completed the end of the season 5k was an incredible victory that reminded me what my body and I were capable of.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying Chip Lerwick at the finish line of the GOTR 5k as he read out the names of girls who were finishing the race. I was basically in tears the entire time watching the young women beam with pride and exhilaration as they ran across the end line and realized what they had accomplished. It was an incredibly rewarding experience because I was able to see the impact that GOTR had on these young women and reflect on my own experiences as a Girl on the Run.
Reeves and her teammates participating in a GOTR lesson with Coach and Advisory Board Member, Katie Lerwick (2006)
Have the themes/lessons learned in GOTR helped you to achieve any of your personal/professional goals?
GOTR touched my life at the best possible age; in fact, the older I get the more I realize the extent that GOTR impacted the person I am today. I, and I think most people who know me, identify myself as a very confident person. I am very lucky that this trait comes naturally to me, but I have GOTR to thank for building a foundation in myself that is based on self-love and support. There have been many times in my life where this confidence has been tested, but the resiliency and determination that result from believing in myself have always prevailed against any challenge and, furthermore, have given me the opportunity to put my best self forward in any environment.
How did GOTR shape your identity?
There is no denying that GOTR is a huge part of my life and identity. Aside from learning about healthy mental and physical habits, GOTR exposed, and continues to expose, me to strong, dedicated and inspiring women.
As a 9 year old, GOTR gave me and my teammates the first physical space to understand gender dynamics. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at Concordia park were our place, our girls club, and our space to feel empowered outside of male influence. Here, we celebrated and encouraged each other and succeeded as a group while learning how to love ourselves for who we were. This idea, this empowerment, is a staple of GOTR’s ability to make a difference in the lives of young women like myself.
As I get older, I realize how difficult it is to be a strong woman in today’s society. Institutionalized misogyny puts a target on the backs of determined women and pits powerful, ambitious women against each other. GOTR gave me a network of women who are dedicated to lifting up one other and future generations of young women. It has taught me just how powerful a network of inspired women can be.
GOTR gave me the power to identify and overcome the obstacles that accompany injustice. I am so proud to identify myself as a strong and independent woman and it makes me even more delighted to celebrate other women who are breaking barriers in the face of adversity.
Are the GOTR themes/lessons still relevant in the world today?
Absolutely; now more than ever, I think instilling self-confidence and positive body image should be a priority for young women. It will never not be important to empower the future generations of women.