Meet Ariel (Rel) Kendall, the Founder of ‘Run Like Rel’ in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ariel was compelled to give back to others through her experiences growing up in the inner city of Minneapolis. She now gives youth support, opportunity and hope for a future without limits.
I know you will be inspired by her story, tenacity and desire to make change happen. Enjoy our one-on-one discussion below.
Be You and Thrive: On your website you share, ‘I hope to ignite individual passions in young adults and help them achieve their dreams in any and all aspects of their lives. I want inner city youth to acknowledge their full potential and let them know that their dreams can become a reality.’ These are words of heartfelt compassion! Where did you gain your passion for inner city youth?
Ariel (REL): I grew up in the inner city of Minneapolis. I was raised in a single-family income household and we didn’t have a lot of money. We had the YMCA programs available, Girl Scouts and programing through school boards. Even though we didn’t have a lot of means to do so, I was fortunate to be involved these programs. Due to the public High School I attended, I was able to grow up and befriend very diverse individuals. I questioned if college was affordable and really worth it. I felt a lot of anxiety and pressure knowing my family couldn’t afford it and that my parents didn’t go. It was challenging for me, but I ended up getting a full-tuition scholarship based upon my academics and my financial situation. I think about students who are in the same position that I was in, and who are asking the same questions. This has compelled me to have the desire to give back to others.
BY&T: And now, you are helping young people that are in similar situations and struggles. Rel, where do you think your compassion to give back comes from?
REL: In the 1960’s my father was adopted from Korea into a white family in the United States. He went through a lot of hardships and discrimination. He was a minority within his community and his own family. He ended up getting his GED later in life. My brother went through similar circumstances in regards to difficulty in school and got his GED in his 20’s. And so I asked myself, ‘What could be done to better motivate kids in these types of situations?’ ‘How do they get an understanding that they are capable of more?’ I also have a twin sister who works with teens in foster care. I am proud of my heritage and my family. They inspire me!
BY&T: You also have another passion that is a significant part of your life—the joy of running. Will you explain how this impacted your vision to help inner city youth?
REL: In High School I realized I didn’t have a lot of hobbies, so I joined track and field. It was hard, but I started training and didn’t give up. I eventually found a passion to run. I felt a sense of belonging through the cross-country community at school. It was encouraging and motivating
BY&T: And it was so motivating you titled your non-profit, Run Like Rel. It always inspires me when a passion evolves into an effort that influences others. I’m a big believer that we each have the ability to enhance one anothers lives, we just have to realize our unique gifts. When did you realize that creating this organization was what you wanted to do?
REL: Being a student of journalism, I loved to write and started a blog two right out of college. I was also deeply involved in Twin City non-profits—specifically focused on youth and sports. I then later realized my passion for youth development & community engagement. And so I began to brainstorm how my idea could grow into changing lives. I knew I needed support and funding. I was being mentored by a few different Executive Directors of the non-profits that I’m involved in, and they began giving me a road map and direction for next steps in building my own non-profit. They helped me determine the needs of the community and helped me realize how my passion could meet those needs.
BY&T: Can you give some advice to others about the importance of having a mentor?
REL: The reason I am talking to you today is because others believe in me and I have really great mentor figures in my life.
I recall one of them sitting me down and saying, ‘Your success is my success.’ And now, I truly understand and value the impact of that. Youth today, are the next generation of leaders. I know that my mentors are always there to back me up and support me. They keep me going and inspire me. They believe in my dream and my vision and I want to make them proud. It’s powerful to have someone in your life that believes in you and your dream.”
BY&T: It’s truly a gift. And by the way, your energy and passion is shining right now! (We share laughter together).
REL: It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?
BY&T: No, it’s incredibly beautiful! So I want to ask you something that I think a lot of women struggle with, which is being active within their passions. In our culture, most households are dual income and the work that we do may not be our passion. And so oftentimes, our passions don’t stay a priority. Why do you think it’s important to be immersed in something you’re passionate about?
REL: I know what that’s like. I have a full-time job and I’m doing this on the side. My passion brings me deep purpose and happiness in my everyday life. When I’m working on Run Like REL, I lose track of time because I love it and believe in it. People ask me how I make time for this passion of mine and I say, ‘I don’t know, I just love to work on my dream in my free time.’ My life wouldn’t be fulfilling if I didn’t immerse myself in my passions
BY&T: Will you break down for us what Run Like REL provides 16-24 year old inner city youth?
REL: We currently have four main programs:
1. College-Bound Programing:
Events and workshops, campus tours, resource fair
2. Networking & Career Development:
Professional networking mixer, collaborative job fair & career development workshops
3. Active Lifestyle Events:
Sports tournaments & events, nutrition workshops
4. Annual Scholarship Fund
BY&T: And I see you’ve begun an Endowment Fund for scholarships that the general public can donate to?
REL: I want to start an Endowment Fund to start a scholarship through the Minneapolis Foundation. I have to accrue $10K to begin one. This initiative means a lot to me because it is something that is so much larger than myself. It is truly amazing to see a community of people that care about education and the future of our youth come together and stand together for a purpose. Starting a scholarship is so near and dear to my heart because I was fortunate enough to go to college on a scholarship and I am so grateful. I want to be able to provide access to more opportunities for students of color in financial hardship to explore higher education and their true potential. It will be for individuals that meet our scholarship criteria.
BY&T: In closing, what have learned from your various life experiences that you would like to share with the women at Be You and Thrive?
REL: When someone is inspired, the possibilities are limitless. Your dreams can never be too big. Some women think that what they want is so unachievable, but even the biggest dream is a journey worth taking. Love yourself, do what you do with deep purpose and enjoy the long journey ahead.
You don’t have to know all the answers. So many people are willing to help you if you take the time to ask- and they will see and fuel off your passion.
Don’t be afraid to go after what you really want and take every day as an opportunity to keep fine tune and continue to build your dream. Every great entrepreneur and leader started with a dream, a vision and their success didn’t happen overnight. Do something with what you’ve been given, as you are making an impact.
To connect and learn more about Run Like Rel go to:
Minnesota students of color have some of the lowest graduation rates in the nation. Wide gaps exist between racial, ethnic and economic groups within both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Only 62 percent of black students in Minnesota finish high school on time. According to 2014 figures, the most recent for which there are national comparisons, the graduation rate for black students in Minnesota is third worst in the United States.
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