As a ThreeSixty Journalism student in 2007, Ariel Kendall developed a love for writing and a passion for helping other people tell their stories.
She honed these skills as a journalism student at the University of St. Thomas, and after graduation in 2011 started writing a blog, called “Run Like Rel,” to motivate other young people to “set goals and cross finish lines.”
In 2013-14, with the help of a mentor, she turned the blog into a nonprofit organization, Run Like REL, to help inner-city high school students discover and pursue their dreams.
The mission is to help close the high school achievement gap in the Twin Cities, as well as to help students “realize what their skills and passions are, to articulate their vision or dream, and then to figure out how to get there,” said Kendall, a Minneapolis native. “Also, of course, to support them as they work toward their goals.”
Reaching out to students in their mid-teens – or even earlier – is crucial in helping them develop a life plan, Kendall says.
Run Like Rel provides outside-of-school workshops, often run in collaboration with other youth organizations around the Twin Cities, such as the YMCA, YWCA and STEM programs. RLR has served more than 300 students during the past four years.
The RLR workshops focus on education, health and career planning, using such tools as dream boards, mission statements, goal setting and resume writing.
Marcus Styles, a 20-year-old student who attends Minneapolis Community and Technical College, is a graphic designer and is working to become an independent artist. He says the “passion planner” provided by RLR “absolutely changed” his life.
“I probably would not be the organized person that I am” without it, Styles said.
Darrell Thompson, president of Bolder Options, is Kendall’s mentor. He helped Kendall follow her dream and helped RLR evolve into a mission-based youth development organization.
RLR workshops are sometimes held at Bolder Options, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides health and wellness mentoring to at-risk youth. The missions of the two organizations are complementary, and Bolder Options provides a fiscal and administrative umbrella for RLR.
Run Like Rel is “led by a strong female who’s passionate about making a difference in the city where she grew up,” Thompson said.
“She’s determined,” he said. “I believe passionately in what Ariel and RLR are trying to do.”
RLR is a labor of love for Kendall, but for now she also has a day job at TADS, which provides tuition management and other services for private schools.
“I hope in the next 3-to-5 years I’ll have my own building – an indoor space where I can do my programming – and I’ll have the funding to do RLR full time,” Kendall says.
Kendall is following her own dream.