GEAR UP Partner Interview: Ruthie Bolton


We are proud to be partnered with Olympic gold medalist and former Sacramento Monarch Ruthie Bolton, who works with GEAR UP students at Valley High School in Sacramento. Ms. Bolton has been working with the team as they work through the AIM (Attitude In Motion) series and California GEAR UP Leadership Skills Initiative, both programs highlights character traits and works directly with students on motivation, anger management, discipline, perseverance, self-value, respect and accountability.

Ruthie was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview. Excerpts included below:

CGU: What inspires you?

RB: To see people happy and to help people discover their dreams and fulfill them.  To be able to help uplift others.  Then to get letters from people that I have inspired in turn inspires me.

CGU: What are some words of wisdom in achieving your dreams?

RB: Whatever dreams you have, go for them, pursue them and seek them out.  Don’t let people discourage you based on their perception of you.  It is what you think of yourself.  Sometimes what is on the outside is not all there is to a person.  It is what is on the inside what counts.  This is the message I give to students.  My mentor was my father and he was instrumental in me continuing in basketball even though the odds were stacked against me.  Empowerment and support from those around her encouraged her to continue.

CGU: What are some life experiences that have shaped who you are?

RB: The challenge of not being recruited out of High School.  I had to call Aubern University to ask if I could play for them.  Once I got there for try-outs, they thought I wouldn’t play until my Junior year.  I felt rejected and angry that they didn’t want me and I had to determine if it was worth it to continue to pursue my dream.  I chose to go to AU and ended up starting my Freshmen year.  This experience was the main one that changed me.  It told me about myself and the levels of courage and perseverance that I have.

CGU: How do you use these experiences in your role at Valley High School?

RB: It was my character, attitude, and work ethic.  I share this with kids through my AIM HIGH Program and the LSI Ladies at Valley.  Not always about the skills people have, but their attitude and persistence.  I want to be apart of their journey especially when they are at that crossroad.

CGU: Your involvement with GEAR UP at Valley working with the LSI ladies is inspiring.  Can you tell me what you enjoy the most about your work?

RB: Learning and becoming friends with the young ladies as well as being a mentor and a role model to them.  Some athletes feel pressured to be a role model, but it is rewarding to have them come to me and being able to share my experiences.

CGU: Why do you think it is important for students to start thinking about college as early as middle school?

RB: The earlier they get in their head the better.  They need lots of reinforcement.  One day the light will come on that college is important.  Their minds are like sponges and they need positive thoughts, especially when they get enough negative ones already.

CGU: Why is college important?

RB: When people see a degree, people know they know about responsibility, accountability, and discipline.  College teaches you about yourself and molds you.  The rewards of going to college are endless.

CGU: What are some tips for students struggling in high school?

RB: Surround yourself with people who can help you.  Ask your teachers for help, a classmate that is doing well in that class.  Ask questions, reach out, and utilize your resources at the school and on the internet.

Additional Thoughts: Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to and everyone gets to a breaking point, but don’t be so quick to say something is not for you.  Keep pushing and give your best.  Don’t live a life of resentment or regret.  Make everyday count because life is about quality.  Do something to make a difference in other’s lives.  I want to give every kid that I encounter HOPE.

Special thanks to Ruthie Bolton for taking time to speak with us for this interview. Look for Ruthie’s upcoming book ‘Ride of a Liftetime’ to be released early next year.