In Celebration of Women: Girls on the Run Greater Boston Q&A
As part of our “Doing Good Together” initiative, Sherin and Lodgen’s Women’s Initiative would like to spotlight the work of one of our community partners, Girls on the Run (GOTR) Greater Boston. The national non-profit organization designs programming that strengthens third to eighth grade girls’ social, emotional, physical and behavioral skills to successfully navigate life experiences. Jennifer L. Ioli, partner in the firm’s Real Estate Department and Renewable Energy Practice Group, currently serves on GOTR Greater Boston’s Board of Directors. See our Q&As with Jen and GOTR Greater Boston’s Executive Director, Olivia Mathews, below. To read more from our In Celebration of Women Q&A Series, click here.
GOTR Greater Boston’s fourth annual Sneaker Soirée will be held on Thursday, October 21nd at 6 p.m. at the Aloft Seaport Hotel Boston. To learn more, and to register to attend, click here.
Executive Director, GOTR Greater Boston
Olivia has been Executive Director of GOTR Greater Boston since September 2017. She is passionate about achieving sustainable organizational growth and expanding Boston area programming to serve thousands of additional girls. Olivia earned a Masters in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has worked in nonprofits for 20 years, most recently as CEO of the national children’s literacy organization, Read to a Child. She has three children, one of whom is a proud GOTR alum and current enthusiastic middle school XC runner.
Q: What drew you to nonprofit, mission-driven work?
A: There are so many people who want to do good in the world, but don’t know where to start. It is energizing and fun to be able to share opportunities to make a difference with people who will then take action that has a positive impact on the world.
Q: How’d you initially learn of/get involved with Girls on the Run?
A: I first learned about Girls on the Run when my daughter signed up to participate at her elementary school – she had such a powerful experience that I was shocked to learn the program had reached two million girls across the country and I’d never heard of it. I knew there were so many more girls in greater Boston who could benefit from the lessons it teaches girls about and resilience.
Q: What was the biggest challenge the last year and a half posed to the organization?
A: With the challenges of the pandemic removing connections and stability from many girls’ lives, there was even more of a demonstrated need for GOTR’s programming to give girls the opportunity to feel connected and supported. Yet many schools where we work were not operating in-person. We needed to be creative and provide the program either fully outdoors with girls wearing masks, or even online for girls who could not participate in person.
Q: What do you most hope girls take away from their experience with GOTR?
A: The pressing need for Girls on the Run’s programming is significant. By age 9, girls’ self- confidence begins to decline. Physical activity levels for girls drop starting at age 10 and without intervention continue to decline throughout adolescence. It is not the same for boys. I hope that girls who participate in GOTR internalize the knowledge that they have the power to shape their lives, the confidence to set and reach challenging goals, and the understanding that the world needs them to be uniquely themselves.
Q: What does your organization’s model look like these days, and how can people support its mission?
A: At the public elementary schools where we work in underserved communities, GOTR is sometimes the only after-school activity offered – and teachers report that they find the need for physical-activity based programming for girls is urgent, as most of their girls do not have any other exercise outside of limited physical education classes in school. We are committed to including all girls who want to participate, regardless of a family’s ability to pay a program fee, so the most critical ways people can support our mission is to provide funding to cover program costs and to personally volunteer to coach girls.
Partner, Sherin and Lodgen Real Estate Department and Renewable Energy Practice Group
Jennifer is a commercial real estate and environmental attorney with experience in acquisitions, development, leasing, and financing. In particular, Jen represents retailers, developers, and institutions on all aspects of commercial real estate transactions, including advising on environmental regulation and due diligence. A partner in the firm’s Renewable Energy Practice Group, Jen advises industrial companies on the roll-out of solar leasing to accomplish their business goals.
Q: What does your current involvement with GOTR Greater Boston entail?
A: I serve on the Board of Directors and act as the Secretary, so I take meeting minutes and organize our communications. I’m also on the Governance Committee and Program Committee, so I work with smaller groups of board members and staff to achieve our corporate governance and program goals to advance GOTR’s mission.
Q: You’re an avid runner – What positive impacts does the sport have on your life?
In short, running positively impacts my life by keeping me healthy and active, confident, focused, and interested in setting more goals and challenging myself both in running and in life, personally and professionally. Running gives me important thinking time that often gets me unstuck on certain things I’ve thought about for too long, and also gives me a way to feel healthy, and a meaningful way to develop relationships with others, including my fiancé and friends old and new.
Q: What’s one lesson running has taught you?
A: Running has taught me the importance of movement and physical activity, and how that generally helps you maintain a healthy and positive outlook on life. It’s a great way to take time for yourself in a world where that often doesn’t happen without a fight. It’s also a great activity that can connect you to a like-minded community and make friends easily, as most runners in my experience seem receptive to each other.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to teach a younger generation of girls the benefits of staying active?
A: In the digital age we’re in, and with the influence and pressure young girls are exposed to through social media, now more than ever it’s paramount we teach our youth, especially girls, the importance of physical activity as a tool to establish confidence, mental toughness, and coping skills. In doing so, through consistency and practice, it is more likely that the next generation will grow up to be self-assured and focused individuals – Attributes which they can pass along to those around them, and the next generation, as a means to fostering a more accepting, inclusive world for all women.
As we persevere through these ever-changing, unprecedented times, Sherin and Lodgen’s Women’s Initiative remains committed to the advancement and success of our women attorneys and professionals by providing an internal network of support that fosters growth and achievement while connecting and learning with outside organizations that directly support women and women’s causes.