We are proud to welcome Jacqui Hannon from Connecticut, USA to the squad – she is an elementary grade teacher hoping to inspire her children to pursue their passions and stand up for causes they believe in. A former top flight athlete she tells us here why she is joining the Mt Kilimanjaor climb

If you would like to help Jacqui be an inspiration to her students, please support her here: https://www.gofundme.com/equalplayingfield Jacqui is also raising funds to cover players in the Equal Playing Field squad who are unable to raise funds to travel.

I grew up in Woodbury, a small town in Connecticut. Before I could even walk, my sister Liz, who is 11 years older than me, held my hands and helped me to kick a soccer ball around the house. When I was younger, I always wanted to do exactly what Liz was doing. Because she played soccer, so did I. Liz is one of the strongest women that I know. So, for me to be good at soccer, was to be as strong as she was. My love for soccer started with my sister but it soon took on its own meaning in my life.

Soccer was one of the first sports that I learned to play and I was a decent player because was naturally very fast. Growing up I was constantly racing the boys. At high school, I would stay after practice and race the members of the boys’ soccer team. It was always so funny to see the looks on their faces when I beat them! I played competitively up through high school but switched to track as a top flight athlete for Boston College. But even though I was dedicating myself to a new sport, soccer has always meant more to me.

It was while I was at Boston College that I began to realize that the playing field was not equal. I witnessed teammates and fellow female athletes struggle to master their sport and battle with the idea of femininity. I, and all of my teammates struggled to excel at our sport while maintaining high self-esteem and a positive body image.

The way that women are portrayed in the media makes it difficult for athletic girls to feel beautiful. The media is so much more likely to focus on a female athlete’s appearance than a male athlete. Soccer taught me how to loose with humility, work as a member of a team, lead my peers, and have confidence in myself.  Sport has also helped me to view myself as strong and be happy with being strong. I am taking on this challenge to prove to others that being strong is feminine and beautiful!

At this time in my life, equality means that no matter what your race, gender, status or background you are able to achieve at the same level as those who are of equal skills as you. Now I am an elementary school teacher with the goal of becoming a youth soccer coach. I involve my students in the journey up Mount Kilimanjaro and hope to open up their minds to the inequalities that exist in our society. I hope that I can show them that they can stand up for a cause they believe in, that they can make a difference and that they will obtain careers based upon their skills and not their backgrounds. I especially hope to empower the young girls I teach and coach to be strong and confident in themselves.

It is my hope that the students that I will teach and coach from here on will learn from my journey and realize that their actions and voices matter. My goal is to empower my students and fellow educators to pursue their passions - and to believe that to be feminine is to be strong.

Help Jacqui get to the top! Support her and her teammates here: https://www.gofundme.com/equalplayingfield