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Spotlight! Lekisha Gunn (Leadership Institute Edition)

Name: Lekisha Gunn

Preferred Pronouns: She/her

Job Title: Impact Manager

Organization: Girls on the Run

Time in current role: 9 months

College/school: The University of Alabama

Area of study/expertise: Business Administration, Public Policy

What do you like most about working in nonprofit sector?

I like being able to connect with like-minded people passionate about education, fitness, mental health and improving the lives of young Chicagoans. I also like the creativity and flexibility and being engaged in communities. Everyone is very happy! That’s a great thing!

What drew you to the nonprofit sector?

I started out my career as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the non-profit Impact Alabama where I helped prepare tax returns for low-income families and provided free vision screenings for children in Head Start programs. I became acquainted with public service through my grandparents’ love for social justice and education. As I obtained a college education, I focused on how I could give back to places I lived and life brought me from a career in government back to the non-profit sector where I work at Girls on the Run.

What are your hopes for our industry?

I hope that as we experience economic impacts in the near future that we create a legacy of giving in our society. You don’t have to be a wealthy person to give to our organizations in need, you can give your time and resources. You can fundraise for an organization. You can coach and mentor on the weekends. I hope that we can make giving and philanthropy integral aspects of the American “dream” and ensure that everyone has a chance to succeed.

What is your favorite gem in Chicagoland?

My new favorite gem in Chicagoland is the growing renaissance in the West Side of the city. I started running with a group, Peace Runners 773, based in Garfield Park to help more minority runners build confidence and physical activity. I run with them on Friday mornings at the Garfield Park Gold Dome and I then visit Cafe Calida, a BIPOC-owned cafe in Humboldt Park, right after the workout. I also enjoy new restaurants like Soule in Lawndale and also Inspiration Kitchens in East Garfield Park. My goal is to try a new place at least once a month and my work at Girls on the Run helps me venture into new neighborhoods.

At what age did you become an adult?

Before I moved to Chicago, I worked and lived overseas for about five years with the U.S. Department of State. I felt very “worldly” then, but I was also quite young and naive about the world. I would say I became an adult when I moved to Chicago at age 31. I was born in Bloomington, Illinois and left there when I was young. I lost my parents at a young age and it took more time for me to develop into who I am today. I struggled with those losses mentally, but Chicago taught me more resilience and hope and ways to build a meaningful life. I have purpose, I contribute in positive ways. I love Chicago for those life lessons.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?

I’ve actually done a couple and they all involve traveling. I was a daredevil in my traveling days. I love traveling with friends but also solo. One of the best travel memories I have is visiting Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina alone a few years ago over Labor Day weekend. I ended up striking a conversation with a Bosnian man who was a young boy during the war in the 1990s and learned English playing soccer with British and American soldiers. We passed through immigration and customs together and he gave me a ride from the airport to my AirBnB. Our conversation gave me another perspective on American influence, the United Nations, and how Americans view war versus those who lived through it.

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