#BornToLead: Rachel Roarx

Who we become in life depends on two things: the things that happen to us and how we choose to respond to them. How we choose to respond is the more important of the two. I was not born the daughter of a senator or a CEO. I was not born into an upper class household. I was not pushed to want to become a politician at a young age; that was a choice I made.  

When I was in the fifth grade, I was asked to join my school’s Y-Club – involvement in the Kentucky Youth Assembly (KYA) and the Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA), leadership conferences − by my teachers at Notre Dame Academy. I did not fully understand what Y-Club was, but I said yes anyways. KYA and KUNA are YMCA-coordinated programs that teach middle school and high school students about democracy, legislation, debating, and global partnership. I have participated annually in Y-Club throughout my middle school and high school years. Y-Club taught me how to publicly speak effectively; however, Y-Club was not the experience that led to me wanting a political future.

On May 1, 2012, I came home to find out that my cousin Shelly Carr had been murdered by her husband. He too was dead as he had turned his gun on himself after killing Shelly. I sat in shock as a million questions clouded my thoughts − questions that could never be answered here on earth. Shelly had taken all the correct legal measures to ensure her safety but they were not enough. I accepted that I could never understand why Shelly was killed and tried my best to find some kind of hope from the situation. At that moment, I decided that Shelly’s death was a tragedy that no one else should have to experience and that I wanted to work to end domestic violence. 

I accompanied my sister Anna when she gave a speech in the Kentucky state capital building for the Domestic Violence Awareness Month kickoff day which took place in October of 2012. On that day I met with legislators as well as members of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA). Shelly’s story helped to inspire my high school’s Y-Club to hold a school-wide assembly on dating and domestic violence.  In early February of 2013, I volunteered for Shop and Share Day − a day in which items and donations are collected at Kroger for women and children in domestic violence intake shelters. What happened to Shelly is the reason I have a passion for politics. I feel strongly about changing issues that negatively affect women; and the first step to that is to get more women running for office.   

I am was a graduate of the Louisville Girls Leadership sophomore class of 2013 and continued in the program by joining the steering committee as a junior. I became the leader of the Women in Politics group where I educated sophomore girls on the importance of having a gender balance on all levels of government. Once educated on the topic, the sophomore girls decided to make a video in order to educate girls everywhere on the issue. The video focused on the concept of how young women do not run for office since they have not been exposed to other women doing so. The video mentions that in our community of Louisville there is not a single statue of a woman anywhere in the city, which we found to be unacceptable; we wanted to change this by getting our message out to others. We showed this video at the 2014 Girls IdeaFestival‘s Women in Politics session where Kiley Lane Parker spoke about her documentary Raising Ms. President and how to get more girls in government.

I think about my cousin Shelly every day. She inspires me to be the best person that I can be, because life is short and you have to follow your dreams no matter how crazy or unrealistic they may seem to others. Shelly gives me the strength and confidence to step outside my comfort zone in order to make positive changes in the lives of others. The legal system failed to protect my cousin from being murdered even though she followed all the right legal steps. I want to become a legislator so that I can help create and pass laws to ensure the safety of dating and domestic violence victims. 

Currently, I am working on building skills, connections, and resources so that I may achieve my dream of running for office. My dream is to become the first female mayor of Louisville, but I also have a desire to be in Congress. I believe that goal-setting is important, yet I try not to make goals that are too long-term because the world is ever-changing. I try to keep an open mind about what the future holds since I have found my interests changing over time. I strive to see the bigger picture in all that I do so that I do not become too focused on just one aspect of life.  

My future plans are to go to college and to graduate with a degree in political science. I want to work on a political campaign while I am in college. I would also like to be trained to run for office by either the Metropolitan Louisville Women’s Political Caucus or by Emerge Kentucky. Once I graduate I would then like to run for office. 

My message to my generation is that gender equality has unfortunately not yet been achieved. It is up to us to take steps to empowering women in order to make men and women equal. We must question and challenge stereotypes. We must end violence and work towards educating our communities and our youth. Life is short so dream big and make a positive change in the lives of others; that is the key to happiness.

My name is Rachel Roarx and I am 17 years old. I am from Louisville, Kentucky, and I am a steering committee member of Louisville Girls Leadership. I went to grade school at Notre Dame Academy and currently attend Holy Cross High School. I am proud of my foundation which has made me who I am today. My goal in life is to make a positive impact in the lives of the people of my community by becoming a government official.