As mentioned in a previous post, Enlighten Education were Finalists for the NSW / ACT Small Business of the Year, Children’s Services.
The Awards, hosted by Precedent Productions and sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government, celebrate the achievements of the 1.88 million small businesses in Australia. We were incredibly honoured to be a finalist in these prestigious, national awards and were just thrilled to have WON!
In our speech Francesca and I acknowledged the many clients schools who have supported us, and the thousands of beautiful girls who have joined us in schools and held our hand on this Enlighten journey.
enlighten is championing the rights of young women and ensuring our girls are empowered to respond with intelligence to the changing world around them. “
I was just flabbergasted when it was finally announced that I was also the NSW / ACT Small Business Champion Entrepreneur of the Year! Oh my! Official Press Release
Winning such an incredible Award has made me stop and reflect on why I have been so driven by this work. I thought I would share some of my motivators with you here…
The heart connection.
When I was two years old I was badly burnt; I received third degree burns all down my right arm and neck. As is often the case with burn victims, I also suffered two major secondary infections – german measles and the potentially life threatening golden staph.
Growing up, my feelings of inadequacy due to this scarring were quite overwhelming; I was a bright, popular and ambitious young girl but my main preoccupation was with my scars and how best I could hide them from the world.
And as we choose to believe we are less because of how we look, and our inability to conform to a perfect image, we become less.
In my adult years as a teacher I explored ways in which I might come to terms with my burns, indeed in many ways teaching forced me to come to terms with them as I was now a role model – if I could not accept myself, how could I possibly ask my students to accept themselves?
I became aware of the importance of a dialogue around gender and identity, and of the urgent need to help girls come to terms with the mixed messages about beauty they were being bombarded with. Although the scars I had to accept were more obvious, so many girls carry scars of their own.
With enlighten I have created a platform from which I can question, encourage and spread love, light and laughter.
The head connection.
One of the many things that I love about enlighten is the fact that we celebrate diversity and recognise that women are many things; our workshops focus on the girls as consumers, friends, students, budding career women …
I too see myself as the sum of many parts. Whilst I definitely connect with this work on a profoundly personal level, if I am being entirely honest part of my motivation for creating enlighten also emerged from my compulsive desire to innovate and create – I am most stimulated when involved in designing and leading new projects and in seeking creative ways around problems. I also find the business sector enormously stimulating – hence my desire to undertake post-grad. study in business management.
I am also a person with firm beliefs and a strong sense of justice; I have always had a strong interest in gender issues and in empowering young people to reach their potential. For me, enlighten has provided a fabulous opportunity to combine my skills in innovating and promoting with my own personal passions.
Both the desire to be a successful manager and a change maker are equally as important to me. I have always approached my work with a commitment to quality and have been at times quite hard on myself (and perhaps Fran) in my pursuit for excellence. Yet what other way is there? I believe our young people deserve more than just good intentions. This underlying approach to my work also partly explains why enlighten was never established as a non-profit. I think it needs to be good enough to be highly valued in the market place; I did not want to rely on hand outs. I have seen too many programs that have been funded externally become complacent, inflexible and more focused on quantity than quality.
The hand connection.
Nothing drives my success quite like seeing the faces of the girls we work with (they literally transform – from looking tentative and perhaps even dejected to shining).
For me, there is no greater motivator than simply being with my girls – all my girls – the teenage ones we work with in schools, and my amazing staff.
I would like to publicly acknowledge here all the friends, family and colleagues who have nourished and challenged me – intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.
Much love and respect (in no particular order!) to all the enlighten girls – my “Amazons”- Frantabulous ( enlighten’s co founder and my partner – how can one girl be so yummy? I could not have possibly selected anyone better to share this all with) , Sonia ( Program Director, Victoria) , Storm ( Program Director, Queensland), Jane (Program Manager, Adelaide) and the NSW “dream team” – Mel, Kellie, Lucinda, Monica, Nikki, Donelle and my scrumptious “Admin Angel” Christine.
Thanks to all our client schools and particularly to those women in leadership I have been blessed to developed a real friendship with – Ann, Amelia, Elizabeth, Stephanie, Sarah…
My former managers and colleagues in the Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Parramatta, who had faith in many of my ideas and allowed me to innovate – I shall always be equally as proud of what I achieved by founding the Lighthouse Project ( a youth mentoring program for at risk students, now coordinated by the brilliant Melinda Phillips) and “Project E”, a program developed to foster entrepreneuralism in young people and show them that enterprise is about adding value, not just making money. I was so blessed to have worked in an inspiring environment and with people of enormous integrity: many, many thanks to Leo Keegan, Cathy Smith, Magda Quinlan, Kerry Stirling, Mick Bezzina and Kevin Jones. Dreamers all.
Gratitude too to my TAFE colleagues Rob Hart and Anne Ford, and to Barry Calvert, Jennie Rudder and Vicki Clark. What fun we had growing Lighthouse and seeing her shine! Hundreds of young people have literally been saved by this amazing program and the beautiful mentors who commit to acting as role models for young people who are particularly vunerable. I am so proud to see Vanessa and Melinda continuing and indeed expanding on this work.
Love to my family and friends – you know who you are. 🙂