Life Lessons from the Fast Lane

  • More Than a Game: Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation

    Sharing Lessons on Winning and Life Jackie Joyner-Kersee works to teach perseverance and belief to youths at her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Mo. Image Credit: Fetzer Institute/Kellen Manley

  • Sharing Lessons on Winning and Life Jackie Joyner-Kersee works to teach perseverance and belief to youths at her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Mo. Image Credit: Fetzer Institute/Kellen Manley

  • Sharing Lessons on Winning and Life Jackie Joyner-Kersee works to teach perseverance and belief to youths at her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Mo. Image Credit: Fetzer Institute/Kellen Manley

  • Sharing Lessons on Winning and Life Jackie Joyner-Kersee works to teach perseverance and belief to youths at her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Mo. Image Credit: MBK (Marjie)

  • Sharing Lessons on Winning and Life Jackie Joyner-Kersee works to teach perseverance and belief to youths at her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Mo. Image Credit: Fetzer Institute/Kellen Manley

  • Sharing Lessons on Winning and Life Jackie Joyner-Kersee works to teach perseverance and belief to youths at her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Mo. Image Credit: Fetzer Institute/Kellen Manley

Life Lessons from the Fast Lane

The striped lanes of a running track served as a road out of poverty and into fame and success for Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and the Olympian is working through her Winning for Life program to make sure young girls can benefit from the many lessons she learned along the way.

Among those lessons is persistence, which Jackie has demonstrated in spades by maintaining and reviving her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in her hometown of East St. Louis, Mo.

Along with maintaining the community center, Joyner-Kersee has partnered with the Fetzer Institute to broaden the focus of her community outreach. She has created a curriculum called Winning for Life that helps high school girls develop strong work habits, empathy and resilience.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Joyner-Kersee said that a key lesson in all her experiences has been that giving up is not a viable option. "If I choose to do that, then it says a lot about the lack of character versus sticking with it," she said. "I believe in me. And I believe in the dreams of the young people."

Dreams and belief in a bright future go hand in hand with forgiveness of past difficulties in Joyner-Kersee’s view.

“Without forgiveness I would not be here,” she told an interviewer. She uses the center to implement programs that help others gain the same perspective.  “Love for me has always been a connection with people,” she says. “The purpose of serving to me is love, and being able to share myself in a way that I can help someone else.”

During four, one-hour sessions, participants were guided through a curriculum that begins talking about love, moves on to address forgiveness, encourages self esteem, and finally motivates participants to use the skills of discipline and determination.

One youth sports coach praised Joyner-Kersee’s ability to connect with young athletes, saying, “She’s always had that ability to speak on whatever level, teenage level, elementary level, school level, collegiate level and corporate America. I could just see the light in their eyes when engaging with her.”

This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Sports and Embodied Spiritual Practice.