In thinking about the anecdotes we often share about Ellis students, I began to think about these as stories of Ellis girls “saving the world.” Of course, that’s way too heavy a task to ask of young children and teenagers, and yet our girls do make a real difference in the world in so many ways, whether it be class book drives, science projects, or social justice work.
I had the good fortune of being raised by incredible parents who, in their own lives, were naturally drawn to professions that earned them much respect from others for the impact they had on their communities. My dad was a physician who created a community clinic serving an under-resourced community with limited healthcare options, and my mom was an early childhood educator who started the first Headstart programs in our hometown. They were hard acts to follow. I spent much of my adolescence worrying that I wouldn’t find a career path for myself in which I could be successful and joyful, and that also did some good for the world, despite my parents’ insistence that there were so many ways to have a positive impact. I had a pretty narrow view—as many adolescents do—of what qualified as “good work.”
One of my goals for all our Ellis girls is that they strive to do good work—to have a positive impact on the world—and are prepared and encouraged by us to find their own paths for doing so. As I’ve said to students on numerous occasions, there is no one way to be at Ellis, and no one path that is the right one for everyone. I know our girls have experiences throughout their time here that equip them to have a positive impact—they learn to analyze situations to figure out the most important problems to consider, they learn to think creatively about solutions to those problems, they learn to speak up to express their ideas and to advocate for themselves and others, they learn to work cooperatively with others whose gifts and viewpoints are different from their own. All this learning equips them with the skills to do good work. They also see lots of examples of ways to have an impact: younger students see older students leading community service or activism efforts; girls hear parent, alumnae, and community speakers talk about work that is important to them; classes visit companies, cultural institutions, and community organizations that are making a positive mark on Pittsburgh and the larger world.
Ellis girls are doing “good work” in so many wonderfully varied, age-appropriate ways. It’s a joy to behold.