My father, who passed away in 2013, would have turned 100 this year. On his birthday, March 31, my family members and I found ourselves emailing each other stories about him, and memories of his many qualities we adored. One thread that emerged was his relentless optimism and ability to tackle problems with great creativity. He was, to coin an Ellis word, a real changemaker.
Last spring, many visual arts teachers were sorting out the safest and best way to approach learning in hands-on, art studio classes in the midst of the pandemic. No one knew what to expect, how long schools might be closed, or if we’d be mandated by the state to teach remotely in the fall. When it came time to order supplies for this school year, teachers prepared for a variety of scenarios.
When I first came to Ellis in 2017 I had a chance to meet a wide variety of Ellis alumnae of all ages. I was so impressed by these women, by their passion for their work and interests, their authentic warmth and lack of pretense, and their confidence. They embodied our mission—to develop girls and young women to become bold, authentic, intellectually vibrant changemakers—and were truly inspirational.
It’s a typical Saturday morning in January, in Pittsburgh, with the temperature hovering around freezing and a swift snowstorm brewing on the horizon. While most teenagers are still sleeping, cozy in their beds, eleven Ellis Upper School students gather in the School’s courtyard, bundled up by an electric piano to warm up for the official vocal recording session for Shrek the Musical.
As we launch into the new year, it's a particularly fitting time to lift up our mission at Ellis, which is to educate girls and young women to become bold, authentic, intellectually vibrant changemakers. I am particularly excited about our focus on growing changemakers, because I firmly believe it is the most unique gift we give our students. It can also be the word in our mission statement that provokes the most questions. What does it mean to be a changemaker? What do we do at Ellis to grow this characteristic in our students?