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Natalie Kelley

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Natalie KelleyName: Natalie Kelley
Age: 45
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Occupation: stay-at-home mom and student pilot

Growing up in a small farming community in Tennessee, Natalie Kelley was never excited about growing up and having a traditional career. But as she became a young adult, she decided to choose a “safe” path, and graduated with a degree in Business as a marketing major.

“My majors changed a number of times. I was a very “unsettled” student,” she recalls.

Cool Girl Natalie Kelley in front of small airplane.As a young woman, her father’s influence led her to dream of something bigger. A former Navy pilot and career pilot with FedEx, her dad peppered her with gifts from his trips and tales of his travels. Natalie’s Uncle Robert also guided her towards her love of the sky.

“He owned and maintained his own aerobatic planes and performed in airshows, and still does, after 50 years! It was definitely not “usual” in our small town of farmers for someone to own an airplane,” Natalie says. “He would take me flying because his two sons weren’t all that interested in flying and I loved it! He knew I loved it and continued to encourage me throughout my life to get my pilot’s license. We would attend airshows together and talk aviation quite often. He was my true inspiration.”

It was from Uncle Robert’s spark and Natalie’s desire to share her passion that flyGIRL was born.

Two women pilots wearing FlyGIRL clothing.“I wanted to create some clothing to wear that was stylish and had a catchy logo for women; I wanted something to wear that would advertise to the world that I was a pilot. In doing that, hoping that other women would see it and ask me about it, and I could then hopefully plant a seed for another female to be intrigued and possibly pursue aviation,” she explains. “I wanted to build a social community through the various social media avenues of women who love aviation as much as I do so that we could support one another with pictures of our adventures or encouraging words. And I wanted to financially help other women who were interested in pursuing aviation, either as a hobby or a career. Flight training is expensive and intimidating for women; I wanted to be able to relieve some of that financial burden and provide encouragement with mentoring or just being available as a cheerleader.” So she set out to start flyGIRL, LLC.

Cool Girl Natalie Kelley in plane with pilot's gear.Natalie started a scholarship program through flyGIRL to help promote women who want to take to the skies. Beyond her high-flying philanthropy and business savvy, Natalie makes it a point to fly at least three days a week for lessons. “And I’ll take my plane out any time the weather cooperates,” she adds.

On the ground, she’s a proud mother of three boys, she even makes sure to be back on time after her jaunts to the airport in order to welcome them home from school.

“I have three teenage boys who act like they could care less if I’m at home or not, but being present and available has always been of utmost importance to me. Although, there are many days when faced with their teenaged attitudes, that I want to fly away and stay away!” she jokes.

It’s the balance between satisfying her personal goals and being a self-sacrificing stay-at-home mother that has shifted her into a new phase of life. Her joy in the sky and glee for aviation has prompted her to shift her earth-bound career path. She’s looking to gain flight hours and trainings in order to make a living as a pilot.

Cool Girl and pilot Natalie Kelley walking in front of a small airplane.

 

“At first, I was concerned that I was too old for a new “life” or career, but I’ve spoken with many people and am constantly encouraged that I’m definitely not too old and there are a large number of opportunities available for me, especially since I’m a woman,” Natalie says. Her zest and curiosity has led to blogging and vlogging her flight training and experiences, and she’s enthusiastic to share her fresh start in the sky on social media (see it here: on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter).

As for other earthly girls who are looking up, Natalie has this to say:

“Pursue the things that you really enjoy, don’t listen to everyone else. We all have special gifts and talents, God wants us to use those. Don’t live your whole life settling on the things others enjoy or want, it will not be satisfying and you will feel empty. Only you have to live with yourself. Life goes by fast and is too short!”

For this soaring quest for personal and aviation inspiration, we think Natalie Kelley is one Cool Girl!

Keep up with all her adventures: http://www.flygirlllc.com

Tracy Wiczer

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer with Ariana the bunnyName: Tracy Wiczer
Age: 31
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Occupation: Pharmacist

As a pharmacist specializing in hematology and oncology, Tracy Wiczer’s day-to-day endeavors involve helping to prolong people’s lives, and in her free time, she does the same…only for bunnies!

As a child, Tracy excelled in math and science, but also had a sweet spot for animals, even considering becoming a zoo-keeper for koalas when she grew up. But after her mother’s passing from ovarian cancer when she was only 10 years old, and her father surviving prostate cancer, Tracy knew she wanted to specialize in hematology/oncology as her career path.

“I wanted to be able to improve the lives of patients going through similar times that I experienced with my parents,” she says.

But it wasn’t an easy path. In order to specialize in the field, she needed to complete two additional years of post-graduate training. After completing her second year at The James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University, Tracy was offered a position. She’s now a board certified oncology pharmacist, and one of only four pharmacists at The James who specializes in lymphomas, chronic leukemias, multiple myeloma and benign hematology disorders. So what does that entail?

“I work closely with teams consisting of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, case managers and nurses to provide care for patients with blood cancers. My main role is ensuring chemotherapy orders are 100% correct and optimizing supportive care medications. Being part of this team is extremely rewarding and I love interacting with the patients to teach them about what to expect from their chemotherapy or fix any medication related problems they may be having,” she explains.

She also trains pharmacists and researches medications, she’s even had four of her research projects published, and presented one at the American Society of Hematology meeting in December 2016.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer presenting research paper with partner.

Although her job would seem to be challenging from a scientific perspective, Tracy admits that the most difficult part has nothing really to do with being a pharmacist; it’s largely a financial conundrum.

“The cost of cancer care, chemotherapy in particular, is absolutely mind boggling. Part of my job is to coordinate between the physicians, the people who help with insurance authorizations, our medication assistance department, and pharmacy/hospital administration to make sure medications are affordable for my patients,” she says.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer's Rescue Bunny WisteriaWhen she’s not brainstorming how to help patients, Tracy hops back to helping her pet cause: rabbit rescue. She spends her time assisting organizations that house and help bunnies, even utilizing the “Bunderground Railroad” rescuer transport to help rabbits find homes when there is no space available anywhere in central Ohio. “I’ve had up to 13 rabbits living in my house because there was simply nowhere for them to go at the time,” she confesses.

“I adopted my first pair of rabbits when I was in college,” she recalls. “Thumper and Muncher were my first bunnies and taught me a lot about rabbits. I discovered Ohio House Rabbit Rescue (OHRR) when I was looking to adopt a rabbit after one of mine passed away. Before this point I didn’t realize that rescuing rabbits was a thing!”

Through OHRR, Tracy learned about “Buncare” volunteering, which she began doing in November of 2014. She fed and cleaned up the litter every Tuesday, and, eventually, she was invited to be a bigger part of their organization by helping catch domestic rabbits that people released into the wild when they no longer wanted to care for them.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer with a group of volunteers rescuing rabbits in the snow.

“Personally, if you let me “free” into the wild, I would struggle to survive,” Tracy says, “So you can imagine a similar problem for a domestic rabbit!”

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer's rescue bunny Tink.She has helped rescue over 60 stray rabbits since July 2016, and also assists in transporting them to vet appointments. For OHRR, Tracy also coordinates their “chillaxabun lounge” at the Midwest Bunfest convention, gives education presentations, helps with adoption events, and plays matchmaker by setting up “bunny bonding,” which is basically matchmaking for rabbits. By partnering with OHRR, the Columbus House Rabbit Society (CHRS), and the local humane society, she’s helped many fuzzy tailed friends find a place they can call home.

So what advice does this rabbit rescuer and patient proponent have for young women leaping into adulthood?

“I was definitely never one of the cool girls as I excelled in school, was a band nerd, and am not especially athletic. It’s 100% ok to be a dork!”

We agree that any dork that helps people and pets live better lives is truly a very Cool Girl!

Help end cancer & support The James: http://pelotonia.org/

 

A $200 donation was made to Ohio House Rabbit Rescue on behalf of Virginia. You can donate here.

Dara Pearson

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Dara Pearson HeadshotName: Dara Pearson
Age: 47
Occupation: Therapist

Therapist Dara Pearson is making a difference, in her community and beyond, one person at a time. This Portland native dreamed of being either Miss America or a firefighter when she grew up, and while those dreams didn’t exactly manifest into reality, her work does save lives and inspire women.

Originally Dara did advocacy work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and it was from that experience that she was prompted to do more.

“There was so much trauma that I wanted to learn how to support people through emotional and psychological healing,” she explains. “So as a single mom, I went to graduate school at Oregon State University and got my Masters in Counseling.”

With her tenacity and dedication, along with the support of her friends, family, and awesome kids, Dara made her support and service career came to life.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Dara Pearson With Wings

“I really love being a therapist, mostly because people open up to me about their most intimate struggles of being a human being. It’s a really sacred thing and I feel deeply honored. The survivors that I work with are some of the most courageous, resilient humans that I know and I am deeply honored each day work alongside them,” she says.

Her work with Saving Grace, a local non-profit organization in Central Oregon that supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence, began thirteen years ago. With Saving Grace, Dara helps to provide essential resources to those who have been exposed to family violence and sexual assault. Their organization provides support groups, emergency shelter and transportation, court advocacy, programs for children who have been affected by violence, crisis counseling, as well as a variety of aid and information to those in the community.

“It’s really essential work because so many people in our community are impacted by these particular types of violence,” Dara says. “Survivors need a place where they are believed and supported, as well as physical and emotional safety, legal advocacy and representation, and attainable and sustainable resources. The challenging part of working for a non-profit is that we don’t have enough resources to go around, so we have to get really creative with what we have. I often wish that I had a magic wand, a really big sparkly one.”

And what else does this magical mental health professional do away from Saving Grace?

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Dara Pearson at Women's March“These days I’ve launched into private practice, where I am expanding my expertise and providing support to survivors of human trafficking, the LGBTQ community, and continue to develop trauma informed approaches to the therapeutic relationship. I still work part-time for Saving Grace and my absolute favorite thing is the Sexual Assault Support Group that I co-facilitate. The survivors in that group support each other in such a sweet connecting way that they can traverse something as horrific as sexual assault, and still come out the other side. Many of them are doing advocacy work, speaking out in the community, and utilizing music and art to make a difference.”

Beyond her work, Dara hopes to write a book about her adventures, become fluent in Spanish, and teach yoga. She spends her free time hiking, practicing yoga, and spending time with her kids and animals.

“I just finished up a yoga teacher training, so will be starting up a Yin Yoga class for survivors,” she adds. Fantastic!

And what advice does Dara have for young women who are looking for a place in this world?

“Never let anybody else define you; you are perfection, just the way you are. You are enough, you are worthy, you are fabulous. Relationships that don’t nourish you are not worth your time. Relationships should feel free and safe and allow you room to thrive. The other thing is that if you are ever harmed by intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault, it is never your fault. Not ever, There are safe places to reach out to and people that want to help and support you.”

For all of her brave work and dedication to helping people survive and thrive, we think Dara Pearson is a very Cool Girl!

Here are a few websites to local non-profits that are doing great work in Central Oregon.

saving-grace.org (doing great work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence)

cascadeyouthandfamilycenter.org (doing great work with survivors of human trafficking)

nwyouthdiscovery.org (doing great work with girls)

Virginia Krakowiak

Cool Girl Virginia Krakowiak 911 Dispatcher and Animal RescuerName: Virginia Krakowiak
Age: 37
Location: (Live) Camas, WA & (Work) Portland, OR
Occupation: 911 Dispatcher

While Virginia Krakowiak may not wear a cape or a mask, this 911 dispatcher and animal rescuer certainly saves the day. Between answering emergency calls and founding the pilot project On-Call Community Rescue for Animals, Virginia spends her time aiding humans and critters alike.

The path to becoming an emergency phone operator originally came about through hard labor…literally. In her twenties, Virginia worked as a farmhand, carpenter, and bartender.

“I wanted a little more job security, higher pay, and most importantly – health insurance.  I come from a family of paramedics, firefighters, and nurses and when I saw the job posting it just seemed to make sense,” she explains.

The pedigree and her perseverance paid off, although she’s the first to tell you that it isn’t easy.

“I remember a ten-minute call where I gave CPR instructions to a man who came upon a multi-fatality rollover accident. He ran directly to the youngest and most traumatic of the patients and for 10 minutes did everything he could to save the life of a stranger, an 8-year-old girl. When paramedics arrived, they took over for him we said our humble goodbye. I then immediately took a 911 call from a woman who wanted police to do something because a particular grocery store was no longer accepting checks,” Virginia says. “I always think I’ve really heard it all, and I’m often reminded that I have not.”

Cool Girl Virginia Krakowiak with rescued ducks.The job requires putting her emotions to the side, and adapting from call to call. Over time at her job that she began to notice the need for a specific type of emergency response: animals in peril. It was from these animal-related calls that Virginia came up with: On-Call Community Rescue for Animals, or OCCRA. Virginia is partnering with several agencies and bureaus to develop this group that will dispatch rescue when the calls involve injured, lost, or otherwise jeopardized creatures. (Keep an eye out here for updates!)

“Basically, I wanted to help these agencies fill those gaps with a group of trained volunteers who would be available at all hours to respond to the calls that are left with no response,” she explains.

Butters the duck in his cast.And when it comes to saving animals, Virginia’s pal Butters can attest to her talent. Butters and his brother are ducklings who found their way to her from a local feed store. Butters had been beat up by other ducklings, and his neck was weak and his leg was disfigured. She didn’t think he’d last longer than a week…but, with her care, Butters began to thrive. After six months, two casts, and loads of physical therapy, Butters is now a year old and thriving. He spends his days trying to jump on Virginia’s goats, and nibbling on all kinds of goodies like worms with her chickens.

Cool Girl Virginia Krakowiak's Goat MangerAlthough her days are long and action-packed, Virginia is able to share her experiences with her Harbor Pilot Firefighter boyfriend. When she’s not working as an animal savior or 911 dispatcher, Virginia is tending to her many animals and their abodes. She’s currently trying to adopt a sheep from a local sanctuary, and adding siding to the goats’ manger.

Virginia’s biggest goal, outside of starting her non-profit OCCRA, is to focus on her work with Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue. As part of the OHSTAR team, she and other qualified members respond to high-angle rope rescue calls in Oregon and Southern Washington.

Cool Girl Virginia Krakowiak High Angle Rescue

And what advice does she have to other young women looking to make their mark on the world?

“Be kind, be loving, treat people with respect and patience….try and find a way to slow down, breathe, and practice kindness.”

Words to live by! For all of her work helping animals and people, and for her tenacious dedication to bringing assistance resources to her community, we think Virginia Krakowiak is one very Cool Girl!

 

A $200 donation was made to Wildwood Farm Sanctuary on behalf of Virginia. You can donate here.

Violet Kilmurray

Cool Girl Violet KilmurrayName: Violet Kilmurray
Age: 17
Location: Wisconsin
Occupation: Student, Camp Staff, Women’s March Wisconsin State Co-Chair

“Hate only fuels more hate, but love can always conquer,” Wisconsin high-school student Violet Kilmurray declares. This young activist, social justice warrior, and Girl Scout is not only drawing attention to inequities that affect marginalized groups, she is also the seventeen year old co-chair for Women’s March Wisconsin.

Violet has been dabbling in activism throughout her childhood. “My family taught me to present myself to the world in a way that I was proud of,” she explains.

Being a Girl Scout since the age of five, she has been aware that girls add a unique and unparalleled skill set and perspective, and that, if someone could benefit from having an ally, it’s a privilege for her to help give them a voice.

“Girl Scouts taught me that it is okay to ask for help, but it is good to be independent,” she says. “It also showed me many strong female role models, and taught me that women and girls can do anything that men and boys can.”

Not being content to simply be a Scout, Violet began attending protests before becoming a teenager.

CoolGirl Violet Kilmurray Wisconsin Women's March Logo

“The first protest that I attended was in Madison, Wisconsin at age ten or eleven,”she remembers. “Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Governor, was passing bills that took away some of the unionization rights for many workers in the state, and especially targeted teachers. My mom is a Special Education teacher, so she and my grandma took me and my younger brother down to our state capitol to protest. That was really inspirational for me because I saw all of these people coming together and standing up for what they believed.”

Violet’s big break into activism has been this past year with Women’s March and Women’s March Wisconsin. After hearing about the Women’s March on Facebook, she decided to attend. On January 21st, 2017, Violet, her mother, and one of her best-friends attended the march in Minneapolis.

“The march was amazing,” Violet remembers. “I felt inspired and empowered. This was something bigger than me, and I was proud to be a small part of it.”

CoolGirl Violet Reclaiming Our TimeAfter the march, she kept up with the movement on Facebook. She wore red in solidarity on the Day Without a Woman, and supported the other events that took place over the spring and summer. In late August, Violet began to see posts about the Women’s Convention.

“From the moment that I heard that Women’s March was hosting a convention in Detroit, Michigan I had my mind made up that I was going,” she says.

At the Women’s Convention, Violet saw the national Women’s March Co-Chairs in person and was able to hear them speak. She witnessed legends like Maxine Waters sharing encouraging and motivating ideas. And it was there, at the Women’s Convention, that Violet decided to break into the state caucuses.

“The point of these caucuses was to get together with our states’ chapter leaders and talk about events that the states had done throughout the year and where to go from there. When the fifteen of us from Wisconsin got together we were told that we didn’t have any official state chapter. So we decided to start one,” she recalls.

Violet and Co-Chair
Violet and Co-Chair

Her caucus planned their Inaugural Assembly for the weekend of November 17th in Wisconsin Dells. In the few weeks that her group had between the Convention and the Inaugural Assembly, Violet, her co-chair, and several other members, headed the planning of the Assembly. Today she remains the co-chair of the official state chapter of Wisconsin.

As a young woman of color, Violet works to change the systematic disenfranchisement that affects many underrepresented groups. She actively strives to bring attention to issues such as gerrymandering and voter suppression.

This coming year, chapters of the Women’s March are organizing a Power to the Polls campaign that will help register marginalized voters and rally those voters who are registered to show up and vote.

“In 2018 elections we want to win back the government so that it is truly for the people,” Violet says.

 

CoolGirl Violet Kilmurray speaking to a crowd.

After she finishes high-school, Violet is looking to travel, do more social justice work, and eventually get into teaching. So what advice does this brilliant young woman have to share with other growing girls?

“Be fiercely and unapologetically you, and let your light shine. It’s okay to be independent, it’s okay to not always be perfect, and it’s okay to sometimes be bossy and get things done. Love yourself, and others around you, and show your love to the world.”

For her relentless pursuit of change, equality, and justice, we think Violet Kilmurray is one Cool Girl!

 

A $200 donation was made to Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes on behalf of Violet. You can donate here.