She Runs It Awards $160,000 in 2020 Loan Relief

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"I'm so thankful to work in an industry and for a company that strives to support and champion women, regardless of their background. From the mentors who wrote recommendation letters to my friends who helped me edit the essay content -- I'm so grateful for a network of strong women (and men) lifting up other women!" Elana Ross, Media Planning Supervisor, dentsu.

Every year for the past nine years, She Runs It has donated five or six $10 thousand checks to rising stars in marketing, media and tech to help relieve the burden of education loan debt. As the organization approached December of 2020, they were preparing to do the same, although the total fund was $40K, which meant that four women would receive the money.

One applicant's story, however, triggered an effort that transformed $40 thousand in loan relief to $150 thousand, making it possible for She Runs It to write checks to 16 stars.

"The 2020 miracle was a cascade of events inspired by Elana Ross," said Lynn Branigan, President and CEO of She Runs It. "When a member of the nominating committee read Elana's story, she decided to send the application to Elana's global CEO, Wendy Clark. Wendy in turn sent it to Jacki Kelley. Not only did Jacki ensure that dentsu would fund Elana's loan relief and that of an additional recipient, she reached out to her professional network and encouraged others to write checks. Within three weeks, $40 thousand grew to $150 thousand."

She Runs It loan relief recipients apply for the grants by submitting information and an essay explaining their situation, their aspirations, and the contributions they are making to the industry. The woman who triggered the cascade of events in December 2020 expressed her feelings in another essay after she learned that she was going to receive the loan relief funds. This is what she wrote:

"Most of my close friends know that I'm incredibly private. Having grown up around the same kids in my Ohio suburb since kindergarten, everyone knew each other's business. I was never able to shake being seen as the poor girl with the dead mom after my mom passed away when I was 10 and my dad subsequently filed bankruptcy. I just wanted to be treated the same as everyone else: valued for my accomplishments versus the extenuating circumstances of my life.

In college and post-grad, I actively hid parts of my life, even as my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I wanted to mitigate the pity associated. Work was my safe haven, when I was in the office I could, mostly, forget about everything else going on in my personal life. Even after he passed away, I buried myself in my work as part of my own way to handle this pain.

That's why writing my essays for the She Runs It application was so difficult. I had to open up old wounds I tried to move forward from. I also realized I hid parts of my life, not only to spare other people potential comfortability, but as a form of denial myself. If I didn't publicly talk about my parents' passing, I didn't have to address the reality of the situation.

As I opened myself up, The She Runs It application led to feelings of self-doubt. What if I seemed self-righteous or self-pitying? What if I didn't win? Would that mean that I was not "deserving"? I hid so much for so long that I was worried I would get rejected the first time I opened up. I put so much of myself and my life into those essays, it felt so inherently personal.

After pouring my heart into the essays and emotionally preparing myself for rejection, I was completely shocked when the opposite happened. Not only did I win the She Runs It Loan, but I found out that one of the judges was so moved by my essays she sent it to Wendy Clark, the Global CEO of dentsu, my employer. Wendy sent the application to Jacki Kelley, dentsu's CEO of the Americas. Both Wendy and Jacki were so touched by my application Jacki reached out to her colleagues and friends to increase the amount of loan relief granted to other applicants.

I am so humbled that my application was able to help other She Runs It members get loan relief as well. At the end of the day, the fact that I was able to help others is much more validating and gratifying than winning the loan relief for myself. In a year of financial difficulty, I am especially blown away by the incredible generosity.

I'm so thankful to work in an industry and a company that strives to support and champion women, regardless of their background. From the mentors that wrote recommendation letters to my friends who helped me edit the essay content -- I'm so grateful for a network of strong women (and men) lifting up other women!

Small shoutout to my personal bibles, Modern Loss and Option B, along with the Dinner Party and Gilda's Club -- my people that get it."

The 15 individuals who will receive $10,000 in loan relief are:

  • Prianka Ball, Digital Media and Web Analyst, ENGINE
  • Ericka Beltran, Director, Content-Enterprise Inclusion, WarnerMedia
  • Evelyn Bray, Senior Manager, Sports Brand Solutions, Disney Advertising Sales
  • Jess Chambliss, Executive Assistant, The Walt Disney Company
  • Ezgi Cubukcu, Senior Advisor, Market Development – Media & Entertainment Vertical, TransUnion
  • Tammy Blythe Goodman, Vice President, Communications, SpotX
  • Allie Greenspun, Marketing & Advertising Associate, Studio41
  • Emily Kaufman, Senior Press Manager, NBC Universal
  • Melissa Lee, Senior Associate, Wavemaker Global
  • Elana Ross, Media Planning Supervisor, dentsu
  • Kiana Sinclair, Account Strategist, Google
  • Megan Swanson, Media Planner, Carat
  • Katie Szajkovics, Senior Associate, Integrated Media Planning, OMD
  • Kaitlyn Thompson, Global Strategy Director, Energy BBDO
  • Kate Vilt, Project Manager, FCB Chicago
  • Xenobiah Williams, Digital Account Manager, Essence Communications


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