I have had the incredible honor of experiencing many great moments of joy in my lifetime, and to add being nominated and then selected as a White House Champion of Change adds a total new level of "awe" to that list!
I proudly hail from a generation that read comic books (many of which I wish I had today), dressed-out for PE every school day from 1st grade through high school, played jacks and pick-up-sticks, jumped rope, watched cartoons on a TV with an antenna, and played outside all day until the street lights came on.
It wasn't until I became an adult, graduated from college, began working, had children of my own and started volunteering in my neighborhood schools on my off days, that I fully realized the plight of many of our children. Rather than turn a blind eye, I chose to get personally involved and try to make a difference. Volunteering led to even more involvement in PTA, then to substitute teaching. Of course, I was in the classes where students took pride in declaring all out war on subs, yet I stayed and worked past all of their efforts to get me to quit and always delivered my famous line "don't let this white hair fool you!"
This opportunity allowed me to get a closer view of what was really going on with them, help expand the knowledge they already had, talk to them about the importance of a career and inspire them to realize that the stars are not that hard to reach with perseverance. After that, they told me that they trusted me and knew that I only wanted the best for them. What a dynamic breakthrough!
At the high school level when parents typically step back from volunteering, my fellow involved and committed parent group and I began noticing that our school was suffering from many levels of neglect, so I sat down with our administrators and began talking about what needed to be done to get our school looking and functioning better so as to equip our students with the tools they needed to be successful. A task force was formed that included parents, teachers, faith-based members, our area school board member and a business leader. After many meetings, strained nerves, research and late or sleepless nights, the opportunity came when, on behalf of our group, I petitioned our school board to not only fully renovate our building, but enhance it with a Career Technology wing and a first class auditorium. This advocacy effort led the way for the school board to allocate funds for all of our high schools to receive the same. Parental involvement does make a difference!
Today, I remain a diligent supporter of my local schools as well as an advocate for quality education infused with career technology opportunities for all students; I spearhead the annual Alumni and Business Leaders Career Day at the high school in my community, which allows students to see how well former students are doing and be introduced to successful business leaders; through our PTA Council, I orchestrate an annual "Iron Chef" Culinary Competition for our local high school students who aspire to become chefs and organize an annual Health and Wellness Expo and now a new Job Expo to help not only our community, but others in need.
In conclusion, I have long been inspired by a quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
In many ways, I think that I have. Thank you again for this phenomenal honor!
Deirdre Pierce has been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for her work in the PTA.