Erinn Foote, a Fayetteville native, cannot be accused of sitting on the couch this summer — not while she’s at Running Start’s 11th annual Young Women’s Political Leadership Program, which runs from June 19 to June 24. 

According to a press release, “Running Start is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C. that encourages young women to run for office early so that they can establish the tenure necessary to rise to political leadership positions.” 

The press release continued to say that the Young Women’s Political Leadership Program gives women in high school the “encouragement, support, knowledge and inspiration” they need to be leaders where they are now and in the future. 

Foote is 17 years old and is a rising senior at South View High School. She’s one of 65 young women from a national pool to be accepted into Running Start’s program this year. 

She was in French class when she got the good news and said she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I applied Jan. 31 just for fun,” she said. “But I only found out I was accepted March 28. When I found I was accepted I called my mom in the middle of class.” 

She said she kept the information mostly to herself until she knew for sure she was going, but when her dad found out, he began calling her “Madame Congresswoman,” and her mom made “a billion Facebook posts.” 

Melody Foote, Erinn’s mother, said she’s excited and proud of her daughter for applying entirely on her own and being accepted into the program. 

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for her to actually explore and see if this is a field she ... wants to go in,” Melody said. “As her mom, you just can’t pass up that experience.”

All of this excitement called for a celebratory dinner with Rudino’s pizza, Erinn said. 

According to the Running Start website, the program will include a week of political training, a trip to the White House and one-on-one meetings with Congress members. 

The one event Erinn said she looks forward to most is meeting her favorite congresswoman, House Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who represents the 2nd District of Hawaii. 

Erinn said she’s nervous but wants to tell her how much respect she has for her and “hopefully get a selfie or two.” 

“She stays very true to her beliefs and her promises,” Erinn said. “She left her position in the (Democratic National Committee) so she could verbally support her candidate during the election.” 

Susannah Wellford, president and founder of Running Start, said every one of the 65 young women was chosen based on their “passion to make a difference in people’s lives and (their) work to give back to (their) community.” 

“These young women are the political leaders of tomorrow,” Wellford said. “They give me great hope for the future of our country.” 

Erinn was given the highest allotted amount in scholarship, which will cover half of her expenses for the program. 

She wants to study political science and psychology at Duke University leading up to a master’s degree in law, and wants other students to know that “hard work will always pan out.” 

Photo caption: Erinn Foote with Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.)

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