This morning, Rose Stuckey Kirk, P'18 spoke to the Upper School during morning assembly. A Gill trustee and current parent, Kirk is the president of the Verizon Foundation and Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at Verizon. Frequently honored as one of the most influential women in business today, much of Kirk’s work with Verizon uses technology and technology-based curricula to empower students in underserved schools.
Addressing the students at assembly, Kirk talked about the human tendency to categorize and label, noting "categorizing is what we do." She spoke briefly about one of her favorite children’s books, Max Lucado’s You Are Special. In the story, the Wemmicks—small wooden people—spend all of their time giving each other golden star stickers (recognizing talent and beauty and intelligence) and gray dot stickers (recognizing failures and areas that need improvement). One of the characters in the book, Lucia, has neither dots nor stars; they simply do not stick to her.
Segueing from the story, Kirk reflected on the limits we place on ourselves when we accept labels—good and bad—assigned to us. "Too often, not only do we use a label, but we often accept the labels that are given to us, and then we put ourselves in a box," she said. "We put ourselves in that box and we remain there." Calling on her own experience, Kirk recounted several occasions in which she was told she lacked the experience, background, training or requisite skills to advance. Through it all, she continued to define herself. Her wish for the students this morning was that they too would spend their lives defining themselves and challenging the limits imposed by others. "Nothing," she concluded, "can define you except your ability to believe in who you are."
If you were one of roughly 20 million Americans who tuned into the Final Four championships last weekend, you saw Kirk’s most recent ad for Verizon, “We Need More,” in which NBA great LeBron James, model Adriana Lima and NFL quarterback Drew Brees urge young people to become scientists and engineers. Her audience this morning was much smaller, but the message just as powerful.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.