“Remember, if no one told you they loved you today, remember I do and I always will.” This is Linda, and these are the words she speaks every day to her students as principal of Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia.
In 2012, Linda was working as assistant superintendent of high schools for the School District of Philadelphia. But when a school merger created a new position as principal of Strawberry Mansion High School, consistently listed as one of the nation’s most dangerous schools, she know she had to leave her comfort zone and take the job. She had never experienced anything like the students’ lack of hope. But with unwavering belief in all kids, Linda helped turn the school around, raising test scores, improving safety—and building hope. Her leadership led to a feature on Nightline and several speaking engagements, including the one where I first heard her in 2013. It was a powerful speech, and included the clip with Diane Sawyer. You can watch it here.
As much as she loves her students, Linda is leaving Strawberry Mansion next year. She knows that it’s time for her to be not just a leader, but an influencer. She knows the next right opportunity will find her, and that her students understand. "They know I am leaving for a bigger cause, and that makes it necessary in their eyes."
“I’m only one person, and I don’t know how I will do it, but I know I have to do something,” she says. “I want fairness and opportunities for all children. I want the country to come together and remember that we are the people and we get a seat at any table.”
“We can all take on the role of an influencer. We can use our position—any position—to speak up and stop hate against any person or cause. We can band together and try to take the place of another and ask ourselves how would we want to be treated. We can influence those around us to help people when they can. We can’t be afraid.” She talked a bit more about this at last week’s Texas Conference for Women, and you can watch here.
Linda says that her students know she’s leaving, and they understand. What messages does she want to leave them with? “I want them to know that through education anything is possible. I want them to have hope, believe in hope and sometimes rediscover it when it is lost. And that love is the answer to it all.”