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Why I choose to stay in San Francisco

Recently, there’s been an abundance of attention around residents being “fed up” with San Francisco and several tragic acts of violence that have happened here recently. Given the myriad of issues the city faces, a number of people have left — either during or as we have come out of the COVID pandemic.

In the early days of the pandemic, I considered leaving, too. I was privileged to have a job that allowed me to work remotely, and I was far away from family on the East Coast. Though I enjoyed San Francisco, when I wrote my rent check each month, I felt the burden of the city’s high price tag and wondered if life would be “easier” elsewhere as a single woman.

Then, one day, as I walked the Panhandle, I approached two guitarists playing in the grass, with people from all walks of life stopping to listen, some sitting, others standing, all socially distanced, wearing smiles as their bodies flowed to the music. It was the San Francisco I’d grown to love: intimate, creative, open.

I lived in New York City for a decade before I moved to San Francisco knowing only two people in the Bay Area. While I initially compared the two cities, once I let go that Muni was never going to be the New York City subway system and accepted that finding late-night food took more effort, my appreciation for the soul of San Francisco became evident.

I actually knew and hung out with my neighbors. I’d close down restaurants sharing stories with the bartenders or owners, often making friends along the way. I took stand-up improv and pottery classes. I lived near the Haight and felt its history all around me. And when I first drove across the Golden Gate Bridge heading north, my body could feel the bridge’s majestic strength.

I thought, “This is home. I’m not going anywhere.”

I wanted to support — and keep building community — instead of running away. And I was privileged to be able to do so given my circumstances. I ordered books for curbside pick up from the Booksmith. I sat bundled up outside at the Page or Madrone, nursing a beer as Karl rolled in, making small talk with fellow bar patrons. I practiced yoga virtually nearly everyday with Yoga Garden (now Folk).  I took other virtual classes, like candle making with Workshop SF and writing classes with the Writing Salon and organized virtual writing groups at the end of courses. I walked along Ocean Beach offering “hellos” to strangers. I continued to walk loops around the Panhandle.

When I first moved here, an old-timer described San Francisco to me as “provincial,” which I find to be endearing and true in the best ways. There’s space to breathe here and an intangible spirit — of curiosity, experimentation and love — that is allowed to grow here into whatever version of yourself you’re growing into.

Yes, there is a lot that is broken in this city — and in this country. My family and friends in New York City are experiencing increased homelessness, violence and fears of being in a harder cycle that all urban cities go through. Sometimes these challenges feel insurmountable. Our government must do a better job finding workable solutions to address homelessness, affordable housing and urban violence. Every resident deserves to feel — and be — safe and protected. You shouldn’t have to make a six-figure salary to live here comfortably. Companies and nonprofits also have roles to play in supporting our communities.

I often ask myself, what’s the role I play in all of this? What can I do?

I care about community and neighbors and contribute whenever I can. I encourage younger generations to engage in service and tell them nonprofit organizations, such as Coro, do amazing work.  I volunteer with Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that teaches elementary and middle-school girls fundamentals of self-esteem and supports them in training for a 5-kilometer run. Supporting local businesses is especially important to me, too, so I get my manicures at the Nail Hall, a female-run business in the Mission.

I’ve taken painting classes at Root Division and supported local artists through venues like SoFar Sounds.

Much of this is about reconnecting with human beings and supporting community. I became attached to my phone during the pandemic, so now I intentionally pull myself away from it walking the city’s streets, noticing the purples, pinks, blues and grays of our houses, and many skies. Instead of scrolling while waiting in line, I stand and wait — sometimes I make eye contact with someone and say, “hi.” Sometimes there’s a short conversation about how good all this rain was — and how it’s nice to see the sun again.

Will I stay here forever? I do not know. Life is uncertain. But whether you’re a San Francisco native or a relative newbie like myself, I believe every day we get to choose how we will be the heartbeat of this magnificent city.

Lindy Mockovak is a social impact professional originally from Alexandria, Va. She’s lived in Washington, D.C.; New York City; Nairobi, Kenya; Kigali, Rwanda; and in NoPa and the Lower Haight neighborhoods for nearly six years.

San Pablo Schools Enjoying Girls on the Run!

Thanks to a Childhood Obesity Prevention Grant from the City of San Pablo, several schools are enjoying the benefits of our program in the Bay Area.  

Our goal is to empower our San Pablo participants to become confident, healthy girls. Our program’s intentional curriculum places an emphasis on the development of competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution in young girls. By adolescence, girls begin to experience faster rates of decline in physical activity levels, lower levels of confidence and positive perception of their academic abilities, and higher rates of anxiety and depression as compared to their male peers. 

As early as age 9, girls’ self-confidence begins to decline. From ages 10 to 13, at a time when peer relationships are becoming more central to girls’ lives, 50% of girls are experiencing bullying such as name calling and exclusion. Additionally, among girls, physical activity levels decline starting at age 10 and continue to decline throughout adolescence. This is even more acute in under-resourced communities. 

We are grateful for this grant from the City of San Pablo so we can bring our positive youth empowerment program to life in the San Pablo community. We have seen the extraordinary positive impact this program has on youth, evolving from being shy and lacking confidence to being empowered with a greater sense of self-awareness, a sense of achievement and a foundation in team-building to help them become strong, healthy, confident girls!

Negative Self-Talk in Adolescent Girls is Worse than Ever

Girls on the Run is here to help! 

According to recently released results from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, American teenage girls are experiencing unprecedented rates of anxiety and sadness. Every 3 out of 5 girls in America felt “persistently sad or hopeless” in 2021, an increase by 60% from 2011. Moira Donegan, a Guardian US columnist, asserts that the “mental health crisis among teen girls is an emergency, one that is worsening.” She challenges our country to give teenage girls “lives of prosperity and hopefulness” and at Girls on the Run Bay Area (GOTRBA), we strive to meet this goal. Our mission is to give adolescents the tools to establish supportive relationships, build their self confidence, and maintain a positive mindset. 

CDC director for adolescent and school health, Kathleen Ethier comments on the data released by her organization: “There is no question from this data that young people are telling us that they are in crisis.” What’s worse? She feels we aren't listening. Schools are currently one of the few places adolescents can receive mental health services, but school budgets are stretched and outside resources are expensive. GOTRBA offers a solution to help girls gain access to resources that help them cope with these negative feelings. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is one key way clinical psychologists address mental health problems. CBT teaches us how to recognize our negative or unhelpful thoughts and reinterpret them to steer us towards positive feelings and actions. 

At GOTRBA, our lessons establish ways we can address this “negative self-talk” using CBT concepts. During the course of our program, girls learn how to visualize their unhelpful thoughts as a cloud over their heads. Forming these thoughts into something recognizable in their brain helps them identify their worries and doubts. We then teach them strategies each week on how to activate their “starpower” and shine light, or reinterpret, these negative feelings in themselves and others into positive ideas, chasing the clouds away. Throughout the season, girls form a “toolbox” of strategies to help cope with their negative thoughts and feelings that they can tap into throughout their life.

Women Who Wow: Danielle Fuligni

Self-confidence is a core value here at Girls on the Run (GOTR). For Danielle Fuligni, it is what defines her work. Fuligni created MyGirl Coaching to teach her own daughters and now thousands of girls every year how to build their self-confidence. A bestselling author and ICF-certified professional coactive coach, Fuligni attests that the “first step…in [her own] confidence journey was volunteering for Girls on the Run.”

Cate Peters: My Girls on the Run Journey

This season, my fellow coach told me that coaches get just as much out of the Girls on the Run (GOTR) lessons as the girls do. Reflecting on my three years as a junior coach for GOTR, I realized how much the program impacted my journey. It is designed to equip girls with a “GOTR toolbox” full of strategies to help them succeed, and though I was teaching my team these lessons, I was also applying them to myself as I navigated high school.

Celeste Ford

Celeste Ford is an inspirational entrepreneur and philanthropist. As the Founder, former CEO
and, now Board Chair of Stellar Solutions, an aerospace engineering company, she has ensured that customers' critical needs were met while empowering her employees to create their dream jobs. Ford founded Stellar Solutions in 1995 with the purpose of delivering high impact for a wide variety of aerospace clients. She also founded Stellar Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in the next generation of space entrepreneurs, in 2022.

In addition to her many accomplishments in the aerospace field, Celeste Ford is a leader in
philanthropy. Just a few years after starting Stellar, the Stellar Solutions Foundation
was established to create a vehicle for employees to support the causes they care about –each year, every employee gets $1000 to donate to the charity of their choice. In 2008, Celeste and her husband Kevin founded the Mirnahill Foundation in order to give back
to the community as a family. Mirnahill focuses on strategic giving with a mission to educate, empower, and inspire youth through sports and values of family, inclusion, and trust. The Ford family envisions a world where every child has access to safe, after-school athletics activities that promote healthy habits and essential life-long lessons, and supports organizations who are helping make that a reality. We thank the Mirnahill Foundation for their continued support and positive social impact in our community. Celeste Ford, and the Ford family inspire us to engage with our communities and lead with heart.

Suggestions Around Raising Girls With a Health Body Image

It’s no secret that a young girl’s family plays a crucial role in shaping their perceptions about their body and creating beauty standards: family attitudes about weight and body size are associated with  mental health problems and eating disorders. In today’s world, it’s even more important to approach these topics with grace and a plan to ensure that your child is set up to reach their full potential.