The Women That Inspire Us
Growing up I competed in synchronized swimming and swam for a woman named Marion Kane Elston. At 19, Marion set a record swimming shore-to-shore under the Golden Gate Bridge, one that stood for two decades and routinely beating men in open water swims became a habit. As a coach, she was a pioneer winning more than 300 national and international titles, and an eccentric person to say the least— she would often show up to important meets in rainbow tie-dye pants. Among the many things she taught me, the lesson that stands out the most is perseverance and the need to show up. If we had a bad day at school she would encourage us to show up for practice and “just swim,” to focus on what we could control in the pool as opposed to what was going on out of the pool and outside of our control. I try to bring this lesson with me to work every day. I can’t always control what’s going on, but I still have to show up and swim, or in this case work. Perseverance and showing up are keys to a successful life, and I’m grateful for the lessons she taught me that I’ll always carry with me out of the water and into the workplace.
Before I start, I would like to mention a little background about myself. I’m a high school student who interns 1-2 days a week here at CASTO, and I’m able to do so through my school, Cristo Rey Columbus High School. Cristo Rey’s entire mission is to ensure that those who aren’t dealt the best hand of cards still have a chance at bright futures. Of course, this is pretty much every school’s mission, isn’t it? Though the mission may be similar to others’, Cristo Rey’s approach to solving the puzzle, that is a low-quality education in inner-city school districts, is innovative. They make every student, from freshman to senior year, work in corporate offices to gain professional work experiences, all on top of our rigorous course load. To put it short, my school does a great job with education, and I’m sure you can tell by now that I care a lot about it myself. In fact, I hope to work in politics one day to try and correct some of the issues I see, Michelle Obama being my inspiration, of course.
Michelle Obama was raised to value education in a way many other black people, especially women, were not at the time. Her parents did a great job of keeping her grounded and keeping her inspired despite her low-income upbringing in Chicago. She graduated from Princeton University for undergrad and Harvard Law School. The most inspiring part of her story to me is not the fact that she attended the nation’s most prestigious universities, it’s that after she accomplished all of these amazing things, she dedicated a lot of her life to helping those in her community achieve the same things she had. At all stages of her life, she used her position to help others in the areas of health and wellness, poverty, and education. Many students, African Americans, and women have come to love Michelle because of her influential role as First Lady. I love Michelle Obama because she inspires me to be innovative and to inspire others who aren’t as lucky as me. She inspires me to be more like her, and more like Cristo Rey in my approach to problem-solving because if she can do it, I can too.
Since I met her in 7th grade, my friend Emily has never known a stranger. Her light-hearted and care-free spirit is infectious, and she is always trying to gather people together. She finds ways to keep life interesting, while still striving for her goals and working harder than anyone I know. Now after 17 years of friendship, I see Emily as a wife, a breast cancer survivor, and a mother of a 3-year-old. Even during tough times, Emily is still the comic relief in the room, the one to suggest a random game to play or reminisce about funny stories from high school. What I have learned from my friend that sticks with me through the years is to be grateful for the life you have and the people around you, and to never stop having fun. I try to keep this in mind with my work life as well, showing gratitude for my team and making room for fun at work. I am so thankful to have a strong woman like Emily in my life to continuously remind me of these values.
I admit it. When I learned that my second child was going to be a girl, I had an acute moment of panic. With my firstborn son, I drew on my own childhood and experiences to help fill out my parenting playbook; this was familiar material I had experienced first-hand. But I had no first-hand experiences to help me raise a daughter. “What am I going to teach a girl?” “How am I going to relate, emotionally, to a girl?” and “How am I going to inspire a girl to always be the best she can be?” I expressed this unease to my wife, who didn’t have any solutions, but assured me I would figure it out.
And my wife was right. My daughter, Abby, was born and I began to see that my initial panic was really driven by my own misperceptions about sons, daughters, and what it meant to be a parent. Much to my relief, I quickly learned that raising a daughter is not so very different from raising a son and that parents are equally capable of raising boys and girls.
Then, out of a cute and agreeable toddler, sprung a sporty, quirky, and strong-willed little girl. Abby practices sports in our yard for hours, her bizarre sense of humor is proudly displayed to all without a hint of self-consciousness, and she confronts challenges with a mix of optimism and intensity. She is so unlike me, her mom, and her brother that my wife and I declare, almost daily, that we have no idea where Abby came from.
Just by being born, Abby taught me the folly of thinking I couldn’t raise a daughter. As she grows, she inspires me to “let my freak flag fly” (her words). And watching her confront challenges reminds me that success often requires nothing more than a positive attitude and dogged persistence. So now, when I think back to those uneasy questions I asked myself when I first found out I had a daughter on the way, I smile at the irony; because it turns out that what I didn’t think I could give to my daughter is exactly what she has given to me.
Kindness, patience, and gratitude are the cornerstones of the woman I’m lucky enough to call “mom”. My mother, Mary Ann Costello, exemplifies these traits every day. My mom went back to college when I was a young girl to become a social worker. She worked with developmentally delayed adults and had such love and kindness to them. She taught me that everyone matters, no matter their situation. Being kind doesn’t cost a thing, but it can make such a difference to someone else. Her patience with the people she worked with transitioned to her family and friends. She is always counted on as the dependable and sensible one to lean on by those around her. She always preached, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything” and led by example. As a teenager, I watched my mom battle breast cancer at the young age of 37. She handled her illness with such grace and humility. Having won her battle, she has a real appreciation for life. Cancer showed her that life is fragile and is a gift. She is grateful for every day and doesn’t take anything for granted. I strive to be like my mom every day. One of the greatest compliments I ever receive is when people say I am like her. I hope I can continue her legacy of kindness, patience, and gratitude and teach my kids that those are some of the most important traits in life.
During my senior year of high school my school counselor, Mary Lou Degenhart, wanted to know my plans for college, I had none. No one in my family had gone to college and it wasn’t really on my radar. Her words I remember like it was yesterday were, “Oh, yes you are and I will help you figure it out” and she did. Even though she had over 1000 students to work within our high school she took a personal interest and assisted me with scheduling school tours, applications, testing and looking for financial aid resources. Remembering that 30 years ago college preparation isn’t what it is today and there was no internet to make the process easy. I realize how much time she took to make sure I found a path to college and her commitment really did change my life. Knowing how much her guidance changed my life I have been committed in my own career and life to volunteer my time either in my community or work to assist others in reaching their goals.
Kim Rhode. Six-time Olympian (1996-2016). Six-time Olympic medalist (3 golds, 1 silver, 2 bronze). In 2012, she became the first American athlete, male or female, to win an Olympic medal at five consecutive Games in an individual sport. In 2016, she became the first American to qualify for the Olympic Games in five different continents. And you’ve never heard of her.
She won these medals during summer games in shotgun shooting disciplines. In fact, she’s the first Olympic shooter, male or female, to compete in all three shotgun events – trap, double trap, and skeet. What does she attribute her success to? She’ll tell you in three words: “Never give up.” Although an amazing talent, there are many others out there – younger, with better eyes, more endurance, and fewer life distractions. All sorts of factors that are out of her control. But working hard isn’t one of them.
There are no shortcuts in her training. She shoots about 1000 rounds a day, every day, in the lead up to a competition. She has shot 3 million rounds in her career, mostly in practice and alone with a coach. She relishes training in rain and wind. She never takes a sick day, addresses her family’s needs, stays active in her community, and remains pleasant with everyone, whether you catch her at a competition, marketing event or practice day. She’s not big on participation-trophy lingo; “I tried” isn’t good enough. And she doesn’t make excuses (she was pregnant during her 2012 run for Gold!).
Kim has had to make a lot of adjustments throughout the years to stay on top; her consistency and longevity is a testimony to her success doing so. She will be shooting at the 2020 Tokyo Games in an effort to (again) do what no one has done before against younger and younger competitors from around the world. Wanna bet against her?
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