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Melisa joined the team at Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run as Director in April, 2014. She’s passionate about the mission of GOTR because of its focus on the emotional, social, mental and physical development of girls in our community. Melisa holds a B.A. from Ball State University in political science and journalism; an M.P.A. from the University of Kentucky; an M.A. in student affairs administration from Ball State and an Ed.D. from Indiana University in higher education administration and philanthropic studies. Previously, Melisa was an assistant professor at Western Michigan University teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in nonprofit and public sector management. Her work experience includes work with Junior Achievement, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Muncie (IN) Chamber of Commerce, and Ball State University. When she’s away from “So Much FUN!” at Girls on the Run, Melisa is likely at the gym or running near her home. She has 3 children who share her passion for fitness and sports. As a family they enjoy running, kayaking, hiking, and going to the beach.
Laura Vander Beek is the Program & Registration Manager for Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. Laura earned her B.A. in Business Administration from Hope College and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Western Michigan University. Prior to joining the Girls on the Run team Laura worked with GOTR as a Gazelle Sports staff member assisting and coordinating the GOTR shoe fittings for thousands of girls. One of Laura's most memorable moments with Girls on the Run was attending the GOTR celebration 5k and seeing Waldo Stadium filled with excited girls surrounded by family, friends and community members. The enthusiasm and positive energy from the girls as they crossed the finish line is a moment that has stayed with her. Laura started running later in life and shares her joy of running, spending time in the great outdoors and cooking with her husband Scott and two children.
Andrea Burke is the Program and Volunteer Coordinator for the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. Andrea taught 6th – 8th grade as a National Board certified teacher for 14 years prior to joining the Girls on the Run team. She earned her bachelor’s degree, in English and secondary education, and master’s degree, in communication, at Western Michigan University. Andrea began running in high school by signing up for a 5k with her mom and has kept running and racing ever since. In addition to running, Andrea loves to read and spend time with her husband, Jason, and her two children.
Danielle Darnell is the Program Coordinator for Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. She moved to Kalamazoo in 2009 and earned her MA in International Development from Western Michigan University. Before joining the GOTR team, Danielle worked as an International Program Director for Orphan Justice Mission and has served as a consultant for a variety of other non-profit organizations. Danielle fell in love with running shortly after moving to Kalamazoo and is excited to be working with an organization intentionally focused on developing confident, courageous, & empowered girls. When she’s not working, Danielle loves to go backpacking, build rustic furniture, cycle around town, and get lost in the woods with her two adventurous little girls.
Julie is the Program Assistant for the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. Julie graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Elementary Education. Over the years, she has taught students in three different states! Julie loves that she works for an organization that strives to educate and empower girls in our community. Aside from work, Julie enjoys family time with her husband Ian, their son and two daughters. She loves to go for a run, participate in group exercise classes, travel and read.
LJ Strunk is the Operations Coordinator for Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. LJ graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree, majoring in Communication and English. Since graduation she has worn many hats and tried many new things, one of which was running. It was her new found love of running that brought her to Girls on the Run. When she isn’t in the office, on the trails, reading a book or watching the Muppets, you’ll find her shivering in an ice rink with her husband Tim, watching their two boys play hockey.
Sherri is the 5K Coordinator for the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Western Michigan University and a Master of Art degree in Health Education/Promotion from DePaul University. Sherri’s interest in Girls on the Run comes from a passion to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image. She enjoys spending time with her two boys, husband, and yellow-lab. In her spare time she enjoys reading, baking and practicing pilates.
Gayle is the Event & Outreach Coordinator for the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. Gayle is an Ohio native who graduated from Miami University in Athletic Training and then came to Michigan to earn graduate degrees from Western Michigan University—and never left! Gayle was first exposed to Girls on the Run when her twin daughters participated and she was impressed by the whole organization and the impact it had on her girls. When she’s not keeping track of her daughters and exercised-crazed husband, Chad; Gayle enjoys spending time with family, friends & pets, working on things around her old farmhouse, and focusing on the important things in life.
Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo
"I am inspired by the increased confidence of the girls throughout a season of GOTR and their ability to see inner beauty in themselves and others. As their confidence builds, their strides in running or walking increase as well."
Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Pediatrix Medical Group
Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring
Family & Children Services
Western Michigan University