Posts Tagged 'Jackie Herd-Barber'

Ms. Jackie Herd-Barber: Advocate for Milwaukee Youth

Below is the keynote address given by Ms. Jackie Herd-Barber at the Youth Frontiers Ethical Leadership Luncheon on Thursday, March 28, 2019. An extraordinary community volunteer, Ms. Herd-Barber received the organization’s prestigious Ethical Leadership Award on this occasion. She is also the recipient of the Education Advocacy Award given by our College of Education and the Champion of Education Award bestowed by the Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee. Her words were so inspiring that we asked if we could share them here, and she graciously agreed. In so very many ways, Jackie embodies what we espouse at Marquette: the pursuit of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and leadership expressed in service to others. We could all better ourselves by embodying the spirit and actions of what she outlines in her remarks.

Helpinghands.svgI am humbled to accept this award from Youth Frontiers, and I do so in honor of the many volunteers who serve as models and mentors for Milwaukee youth. The word volunteer means doing something from the heart. I can volunteer because of the support I receive from my dear husband and best friend, Michael, my wonderful children Lauren and Justin, and my parents, who showed me by their example what it means to really care. My mom is with us today. I am grateful to be a part of Youth Frontiers’ mission to inspire today’s kids to grow in the virtues of kindness, courage and respect.

There is no such thing as a self-made person. No one can boast about accomplishing anything all by themselves. Everyone has received help along the way from both human and divine hands. I can stand here because, when I was a teenager, I had adults in my life, like my parents and teachers who loved me and taught me the difference between right and wrong. I stand on their shoulders. We stand on the shoulders of the great people who have gone before us.

Now, it is our turn to provide strong shoulders for today’s youth to stand on. Whenever I hear people complain about “these kids today,” I get fired up. Because I want to say: “When you see a struggling youth, are you allowing that kid to stand on your shoulders?” You and I have built careers, lives and families because someone was there to help when we needed it the most. Just think, if there was no one by our sides to lend a hand, where would we be now?

Youth Frontiers’ mission is to build the next generation of ethical leaders. The starting point to becoming an ethical person is to listen to our inner voice. Our inner voice tells us to do what is good and to avoid doing what is bad. It is a voice which tells us to be decent people and to treat others fairly, to be honest and to take responsibility for our mistakes, and to learn from them. Some of our youth hear their inner voice loud and clear, others barely hear a whisper. Youth Frontiers helps kids turn up the volume.

But life can become very hard for many Milwaukee kids. Violence, family tragedies and poverty traumatize our kids to a point when they can no longer hear the words of hope and courage deep within their souls. To help turn up the volume, it takes a caring adult to show the way. Through story and personal testimonies, kids can tune in to their inner voice and discover the correct path to take. Easier said than done, but I have seen first hand how a parent, a coach, a teacher, and any adult who cares enough to reach out to a struggling kid can make a profound difference and turn a life around.

I attended the Youth Frontiers’ retreat this past December, and the theme was courage. It takes courage to do the right thing. Think for a moment. Have you ever been bullied? Have you bullied someone else? Did you ever stand by and watched someone be bullied? Let’s be honest. Most of us can say yes to at least one or two of those questions.

Let me share a story with you. There once was a star football player who entered the cafeteria and saw the skinniest freshman sitting in his favorite place. The football player said, “Hey, why are you here?” The freshman froze and couldn’t move. The football player grabbed the kid by his shoulder and tossed him aside along with his lunch. No one protested as the skinny freshman went to find another seat. That is often how the world is – the strong win and the weak lose.

Imagine in your mind’s eye: what if the skinny freshman stood up and said “no” to the star football player? What if some other students stood up to protect the freshman? And now, imagine this: What if the star football player sat down next to the freshman and said: “How are you doin’ man?” and began a conversation because that star football player was once a skinny freshman who needed a friend.

Imagine if we could find a way for kids to have the COURAGE to not be the bystander, not be the bully or the bullied. How do we build confidence and courage in a society that isn’t doing it? I do believe that Youth Frontiers has the recipe and the formula to start changing hearts and minds.

In my work with students – one of the main reasons I do this is I want ALL kids to have the same opportunities that I had, and that my kids have. All kids should have the chance to go as far as their talents, abilities and determination will allow them. When obstacles like poverty, violence and racism get in the way, we need to be there to allow the kids to stand on our shoulders and see a better future.

And so, here’s my challenge to you: can everyone in the room think of a way to have an impact in 2019 and beyond?

Make it a goal, that I’m going to make a difference in a kid’s life who needs me. There’s always someone that needs someone. Make a commitment to make a difference in a school! And, since this is a fundraising lunch, invest in our kids with a gift in any amount that is right for you. Your gift will help Youth Frontiers serve more kids and help them overcome obstacles and enter a path to education and a family sustaining career.

Together, let’s make a difference. Thank you!

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