The last few days I’ve been off in Lake Forest, Illinois. I’ve mentioned before that the firm I work for has a sister nonprofit organization – Greenhouse Scholars. Well Saturday officially kicked off two action packed weeks of events with Venus de Miles and The Community Table.
I went out to provide support to the team as there was a lot going on, including a couple great media interviews. I arrived at the Glen Rowan House on Lake Forest College, the location for Venus de Miles, and my home for a few days, along with the ride co-directors and the on-course logistics manager. It was a bit haunted but also a fantastic venue for the ride and the staff at Lake Forest College were amazing!
We didn’t get a ton of time to really enjoy Lake Forest, as we were working hard, but it is quite a cute little town with beautiful houses, right on the lake. This little ally market was super cute and had fantastic fruits and veggies. Such a great use of space!
Venus is an all-women’s road bike ride that’s truly a celebration of community and sisterhood. As a ride, not a race, it’s meant to be a low-pressure ride all about having a great time, supporting one another and making new connections. The Illinois ride featured three course lengths – 13, 28 and 64 miles – while the one in Boulder County on August 23 has courses that are a bit longer – 33, 51 and 100 miles. With multiple courses, it’s great for all ability levels. Andrea, one of the co-directors, has spent a lot of time, effort and thought working out beautiful courses that are easy to up the enjoyment quota.
Friday before the ride, Andra Pool (middle), COO of Greenhouse Scholars, and one of the Scholars from Illinois, Michelle (left), were interviewed on WGN-TV’s midday newscast by Dina Bair, who participated in 2013 and also this year! The ride is produced by Greenhouse Scholars to raise money for the program. Currently there are 88 extraordinary college students in the program from Colorado and Illinois, but nearly 150 students have been served since the organization began in 2005. Students come into the program as they are entering college. They come from low income communities and very challenging circumstances, but they have an unbelievable drive that has inspired them to become leaders in their schools and communities as high school students.
A few facts about the Scholars:
- All graduated high school in the top 10% of their class
- 72% of Scholars are the first in their family to attend college
- 40% of their families live below the poverty line
- 71% lead an organization on campus
- 55% have founded an organization, event or club in their community
- More than 2,000 middle and high school students have been mentored by Scholars to date
Every time I interact with Scholars, I’m in awe. At their young age, they have already done more with their lives and more to make a positive impact in their communities, than I have. They are incredibly impressive, studious, focused, and determined, but also, they are a lot of fun to hang out with!
Saturday was a long day but there was a great turnout of women, and men to provide support! The weather could not have been any better.
Along the course, there were four rest stops with delicious food donated by Whole Foods and Nuun! Since it’s not a race, many women love to hang out and enjoy the rest stops for a bit! After the first two waves of riders were out on the course, Andra and Jamal, another Scholar from Illinois, were interviewed by ABC7 Chicago.
It was nice to have a little lull of activity, so we could get organized again, when everyone was out on the course but before long they were arriving back for the post-ride festival! We had great food, drinks (Goose Island Brewery & North Shore Distillery), ice cream (Jeni’s), spa services (manis and pedis from Tricoci University), yoga, foam rolling, and vendors like Nuun. It was a great celebration!
While many women ride on their own or with a few friends, we did have several women who signed up as teams. While fundraising is not a requirement of the ride, we definitely appreciate all women who do reach out to their friends, families and communities as all of the money raised goes directly to support our programs. Greenhouse Scholars is more than just a tuition scholarship. The program provides the Scholars with mentors who are always their for them to answer questions and provide advice, as well as peer support groups of other Scholars who are going through a similar situation. Both of these programs are essential to help these students navigate college, as most of them don’t have that same type of support back home. Greenhouse Scholars also provides support finding internships, professional networks, flex funding to help fund educational or community impact experiences, an annual Summer Symposium which just began yesterday in Boulder!
The money raised by our riders, like these women from team Girls Just Want to Ride Bikes, is essential for our program to continue to grow and help more students!
And I can’t write this without mentioning our blogger ambassadors. These awesome women helped us spread the word and get people excited about the ride! I had a fantastic time working with them over the past few months and it was great to meet them in person.
Before all the craziness hit high gear, Andrea, the other amazing co-director of the ride, and I hit the road and went for a little run through Lake Forest, which is right along Lake Michigan. I couldn’t spend four days less than a mile away from the lake and never see it. So not only did we run along the lake, but I made one last stop yesterday morning on my way out of town. I don’t get views like this in Colorado.
If you’re in Colorado, I hope you’ll come out on August 23 and join us for Venus de Miles! If you’re not sure about riding, we have lots of great opportunities to volunteer – and you still get all the great food & drink!
It’s been a long few days and I’m heading to Bend, OR for BirdCamp Wednesday morning, but I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to support the amazing team at Greenhouse Scholars and also support the incredible students.
Find more info on Venus de Miles Colorado here: www.colorado.venusdemiles.com