Joyner-Kersee is a track and field athlete who competed in four Olympic Games from 1984-96. She won six Olympic medals — two gold and one silver for the women’s heptathlon, and one gold and two bronze for long jump.
Joyner-Kersee says her speech will be about leadership, goal setting, service and perseverance. Although she says she will speak about her experiences as an Olympic athlete, most of her speech will be about starting the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in East St. Louis, Illinois, her hometown. The foundation works to help young people succeed in athletics, academics and leadership.
“[The foundation is] based around dreams, drive and determination,” Joyner-Kersee says. “I work with young people to help them find their passion. I hope it inspires young people to be the best that they can be.”
Joyner-Kersee says she will talk about her experiences growing up in East St. Louis, especially as a young female athlete. She says when she was growing up, less emphasis was placed on girls’ sports. For example, she says her school had one gym, and the girls could practice there only when the boys were done. While the boys could practice right after school, the girls’ practice was later in the evening, and this was a problem if girls’ parents did not want to or were unable to take them back to school.
However, Joyner-Kersee says strides have been made in girls’ sports because of Title IX, influential coaches and other leaders for young girls.
Joyner-Kersee says she currently lives in St. Louis. Although she left the area to pursue track and field, she returned to start the foundation.
“I went to school at UCLA, but I always knew I was going to come back home,” Joyner-Kersee says. “I wanted to build a center, and that came to fruition. When I was a young girl, there were volunteers in my life that I didn’t even know what the word meant at the time, but they helped me so much. I continue to do that, to try to give as much as I can.”
For more information, continue reading on Issuu.