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Leading with Light

How one alumna lives out her call to shine through the encouragement of those who came before her.
  • Courtney Simmons ’01
  • Sydney finds her Shine by Courntey Simmons ’01
  • Courtney Simmons & her Mom, Beryl

“At Carondelet, I was very interested in diversity and representation and they gave me the platform to be an advocate. Whether I was interested in starting the Black Student Union or planning our first assembly on diversity, Carondelet let me explore my creativity and communication throughout high school,” Courtney Simmons ’01 said. Throughout her time as a Carondelet Cougar, she came to understand diversity could be a touchy subject, yey she saw it as a way to reach people and meet in the middle. 

“If I had a new idea, I could pitch it,” she said. Even if the answer was no, she was encouraged to find a new approach or refine it. “I truly believe this experience is what inspired me in college and in my career to pursue my passion in communications and advertising.”

Her senior year of college, everything changed. She found out her mom had been diagnosed with cancer.

“We were devastated, said Courtney. “She was my best friend and everyone knew my Mom at Carondelet because she was a constant volunteer, my biggest cheerleader, and loved being a part of my high school years.”

Her mom’s bright spirit wasn’t dimmed even at the end, Courtney remembered her mom’s words of advice “Don’t you dare stop because of me, you keep going!” And she did. 

As she continues navigating life, Courtney’s been inspired by the legacy of strength and warmth her mom left behind. When pregnant with her first daughter, she picked up an old project she and her mom started back when she was in middle school—a book called Sydney finds her Shine.  “My mother had me write letters to Black women and ask them “What do you think it takes to be successful,” Courtney explained. She wrote dozens of letters and many women responded. “I kept these letters for over a decade and re-read them whenever I felt down or discouraged throughout high school and college.”

With the upcoming arrival of my daughter, she revealed that she wanted to finish what we started to honor my Mom and continue the tradition. Sydney finds her Shine is a modern-day fairy tale. A young girl, nervous about her future, journeys to different worlds with her grandmother to meet successful African American women leaders. She learns how to discover her own skills and talents and how to persevere when challenges arise. “My daughter is six years old and she has started writing her own letters. I want my daughter, and all young girls, to feel empowered, confident, and know their voice is important,” shares Courtney.

Courtney’s advice: “Treat others how you want to be treated, just like your parents told you.”

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