Kyle keeps it real
There’s more to her than just her name
On her 18th birthday, Kyle Runfola opened her mailbox expecting to find cards from loved ones wishing her a happy birthday. Instead, she received a package that contained something completely unexpected.
Gillette sent Runfola her first Fusion Power Razor with a note attached.
“It read ‘The Fusion Power Razor will keep [my] face looking smooth with age,’” Runfola said.
Initially, Runfola felt ecstatic that she owned a new razor to shave her legs. However, she soon realized Gillette’s gaffe and recognized that to the rest of the world, her first name is identifiably masculine.
Runfola has been mistaken for a man several times over the years. Similar to Gillette, the Army was equally charitable in the time they spent calling her house. They insisted as an American man, she must enlist in the event of a draft.
“That kind of scared me because they did call multiple times and I truly felt they didn’t believe me,” she said. “Then my mother went on the phone to verify that I am indeed a girl.”
In the last 10 years with available data, Kyle has not appeared on the list of the top 1,000 baby names for females, according to the Social Security Administration. Meanwhile, Kyle peaked for males in 1999 ranking No. 28. (By 2009, Kyle fell to No. 100 for males.)
“Growing up, I could never find anagrammed key chains or pencils with girly colors,” she said. “I always had to have blue and green when I like pink and orange. I’m the most girly girl you’ll ever meet.”
Runfola is very much a “girly girl.” It doesn’t take a second glance to notice Runfola’s femininity as she straightens her long, silky brown hair which falls just above her waist.
“Is this too short?” she asked, while measuring its length with a ruler. Runfola is planning to cut and donate several inches of her hair.
Runfola said her sisters have androgynous names as well. Runfola’s older sister is named Shawn, and her younger sisters are named Casey and Riley.
“In elementary school all the kids would think they were funny, ‘Oh, so all of you girls have boy’s names – Is your brother’s name Brittany?’” Runfola said. “And for the record, my brother’s name is Joseph.”
Runfola’s parents specifically reserved Kyle for a girl, and if she was a boy, they planned to name her Anthony. Since she grew up with an androgynous name herself, Runfola plans to continue the tradition with her children.
“I don’t like the common names,” she said. “I’ve always been happy that I had a unique name.”
As a junior in the MAT program, Runfola looks forward to teaching kindergarten when she graduates.
Runfola is ardent about creating fun and safe environments. She loves the energy of children and anticipates the opportunity to be a positive reinforcement for students.
“I want to create a classroom that is bright, warm and welcoming so that kids really get excited to come to school to learn, and truly be themselves,” she said.
Runfola’s ingenuity suits her as a resident assistant for freshmen and future kindergarten teacher.
Residence Hall Director Heather Kessler has supervised Runfola for the past two years, and recalls Runfola’s infectious enthusiasm in every task she completes.
“I have never seen Kyle without a smile on her face,” Kessler said. “She is a pleasure to supervise and her peers enjoy her presence around them. Her creativity is endless and her passion and vision for the best product outcome is inspiring.”
Junior Kathy Tofil knows the impact Runfola has had on her will be just as influential to her future students.
“Kyle has the biggest heart, warmest smile, funniest comments, and cutest laughs,” Tofil said. “I am so happy to call her my best friend. She completes me and without her, my life would not be nearly as amazing as it is.”
Some of Runfola’s residents cite her programming, reliability and trust as what has guided them through their first year at Quinnipiac.
“If anyone ever has a problem going on in their life, she’ll sit them down and talk to them and make sure they are OK,” freshman Ashley Cyr said.
Freshman Gaby Stasiowski finds it a gift having Runfola as an RA and a friend. Stasiowski maintains that Runfola has established a good balance between friendship separate from her duties and responsibilities as an RA.
“She stops whatever she’s doing to take the time out [for her residents],” Stasiowski said. “Even if she’s stressed out, she’s very friendly and you can hear her laugh from down the hall.”
Runfola wants to celebrate everyone’s individuality like she has done with students on campus the past two years as an RA. It’s important to Runfola that students value each other’s differences at an early age. As a teacher, she hopes to foster a community that honors diversity.
“I would like to teach kids at a young age to be respectful and inclusive,” Runfola said. “If I reach those 30 kids, then those 30 kids will go on to have good morals. There is no tolerance toward bullying.”
Photo credit: Charlotte Greene