Culver’s Women’s Celebration 2018 carried the theme “Dare to Be . . .”
And, according to the three honorees selected by the CWC committee, the best advice they had was simple. “Dare to Be . . . You.”
Each woman – Melody Gandy, Justin Phillips, and Dayle Haddon – told the Culver Girls Academy students during their recognition program on Feb. 28 that the best thing each girl could do is be secure in herself. Girls confident in themselves can accomplish great things, they explained.
For Melody Gandy, who was nominated and introduced by her niece Ashley Trube ’18 (Kokomo, Indiana), women need to have belief and passion in what they are doing. She serves as chairman of board of directors for the Invisible Girl Project, which focuses on the gendercide, neglect, and trafficking of young girls in India.
In southern India, the words “It’s a girl” can often be a death sentence, Gandy said. Approximately 37 million female babies have been killed in that region. That is like wiping out “North Carolina and Texas.” Other female children are beaten, neglected, or end up in the human trafficking rings.
But programs like the Invisible Girl Project are making a difference, providing safe havens for these girls, who only want an education. One of the girls her family is sponsoring has now entered college and is planning on becoming a nurse.
They are beating the odds, she said, but that is because they have belief and passion in who they are and what they want to become. Likewise, she said, the girls in the audience need to “know your worth. Know your value. Let’s be women who dare to be.”
Justin K. Phillips, the founder and executive director of Overdose Lifeline, Inc. was nominated and introduced by her daughter Audrey Sims ’18 (Indianapolis, Indiana). Phillips said when her middle son Aaron died of a heroin overdose, he was 20. Instead of hiding from it, she chose to stand up and talk about it.
“Daring to be what life gives you,” she said. Addiction is a disease like diabetes and cancer, and it needs to be addressed in the same manner. “We fear what we do not understand.”
She never talked to anyone about his addiction after she found out and less than a year later, he was dead. That is when she decided to “chip away at the stigma.”
Indiana has the 15th highest death rate for opiod abuse, Phillips said. Children who are given Vicadin to ease the pain are five times more likely to use drugs. Aaron was given his first opiod by his pediatrician, she added. These are things that must be addressed.
Her position in life is not going to change, Phillips said. “We cannot negotiate who we are. We can try to fit in but we are not being ourselves. Dare to be you.”
Dayle Haddon has done it all. From being a ballerina to a model to an actress to a writer to the founder of WomanOne, a non-profit focused on improving the access girls have to education.
But she has also been an administrative assistant for a small advertising agency, making the coffee, filing papers, and answering the phone. All after she was told, at age 38, she was “too old” to be a model. It was a good way to building her humility, she said. That is until she found out that the dog being used in an ad campaign “was making more money than I did. That’s when I knew it was time to move on.”
Haddon has since been a model for L’Oreal, Revlon, Estee Lauder and Max Factor. She also wrote her two best-selling books on beauty and living in balance. “We are all beautiful,” she explained, “because beauty comes from within. Every age has secrets to tell you.”
Nominated and introduced by her granddaughter Ellie Slater ’20 (New York), Haddon’s non-profit work has focused on providing educational resources for girls. As she has traveled the world, Haddon said, she has found the universal wish of every girl is to simply learn.
In one generation, the program has produced doctors, lawyers, and nurses. “Educate a girl, change the world,” she said.
She told the students that each person only has so much emotional capital to spend. That is why it is important to find what is important to them individually. They should “dare to find the value in your life. Dare to do more. Because daring brings more doing.”