By Karen Clark Cole, Girls Can Do Executive Director ::
Recently I was asked to speak at my former junior/middle/high school, St. Margaret’s for the first time since graduating in 1986. I went to a very small all-girls school for 11 years. I started in grade two (I’m Canadian, that’s how we say it) and for 11 years had nearly the same classmates and wore the same uniform.
I felt honored and excited to go back to Victoria to speak to the girls and visit the campus where my life was shaped. I mostly wanted to see the art room and the wooded area of the large campus where we used to build forts after a big windstorm. I also wanted to see my uniform — the red tie, plaid skirt, and red blazer that I wore proudly for roughly 3,300 days of my life.
Now-a-days, I speak a lot in front of groups. I really enjoy it and rarely get nervous or anxious. So when I was standing in the school gym, looking at a sea of red blazers, it was fairly shocking to me that I started my speech with tears. I was literally standing up there crying. I had no idea how emotional the experience would be and my only explanation is that growing up is a big, emotional deal, and St. Margaret’s is where it all happened for me.
Coming from a family of divorce and turmoil, school played a significant, stabilizing role for me. Teachers, classmates, and even the uniform provided a level of stability that pulled me through troubled times and helped me remain positive and become successful.
The emotional experience I had that day speaking to the girls solidified for me how important it is to support the kids around us who are in the process of growing up. A single art teacher led me down the path I am on today because she really cared about me; she took the time to know and help me, and she made me feel really important.
Today, I try to help other kids, especially young girls, find their paths in the same way. Being present with them, caring about them, noticing them. Knowing that a single person (me or you) can make a difference in a person’s life: Not only is it fun and rewarding, but also you don’t need any training. You can just start doing it…today.
My former school wrote an article about me in their quarterly magazine called Spirit (Below). You can check it out online and also see my high school graduation photo…