My Day with Eleanor Roosevelt’s Grandaughter

April Lara and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

April Lara and Anne Eleanor Roosevelt

“My grandmother would have loved this school.”

That is how Anna Eleanor Roosevelt started her key note speech at the annual fundraiser for the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS) that I had the privilege of attending this past Wednesday.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, Anne is thoughtful, kind, inspirational and has the same energizer tendencies as her grandmother.  Anna was one of twenty-five grandchildren who as she put it “not only had to share my grandmother with my siblings and cousins, I had to share her with the whole world.”

Anna knew how important education was to her grandmother so in keeping the Roosevelt legacy alive, she wanted to inspire and support the girls at YWLCS. After all, Eleanor also went to an all-girls high school which is where she first learned and practiced leadership skills. Eleanor believed in the future because she believed in young people and anytime she had the chance to listen and find ways to help young people, she did.

A little about YWLCS:
The YWLCS started in 1999 when twenty-three dynamic women business and civic leaders wanted to create better opportunities for girls to be successful, especially given the low graduation rates and lack of career success that was predominant in the inner city schools. It is the only all-girls public school in the city of Chicago.

The reason Eleanor Roosevelt would have loved this school, Anna told me, is because all girls can be included. Any young girl has the opportunity to attend no matter what her background, how much money her parents make, what neighborhood she lives in or how good her grades were in grammar school. Eleanor believed “It is better for everyone when it is better for everyone.”

YWLCS is well-run school with effective leadership and caring teachers, who hold a high expectation and support girls in all aspects of their development. This is a school where it is not unusual for a student to come in a grade or two behind. Some come from neighborhoods where hearing gun violence is part of their every day life.

A few accomplishments include:

• Two seniors were awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship. One student will be attending Barnard another will be attending Stanford. This scholarship covers full tuition and expenses for not only undergraduate work, but for master and doctorate level degrees, too.

• 100% of the 2015 graduating class have been accepted into a college.

• The event included a showcase by the students highlighting the school groups, clubs and lessons learned. Students presented intelligently, articulating the issues facing their future yet looking forward with great optimism, empowered to take the lead.

• When I asked a student about the Ferguson and Baltimore protests and what she thought, her impromptu answer hit the mark: Fighting violence with violence is wrong and there is a need for someone to step up and lead.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt shared with the audience what she learned about leadership from her grandmother:

Listening: Eleanor was a great listener. She was keenly interested in what everyone had to say. Anna said that she knew her grandmother was listening – really listening – so she paid a lot more attention to what she was going to say. An interesting thought: If we knew people were really listening to us, how might we change what we say or talk about.

Being open minded: People have the right to their opinions and how we deal with the conflict when we do not agree is important to our leadership ability. Many times we let our egos get in the way which stunts our growth in so many ways. Eleanor said “There is not human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.”

Not being afraid to make or admit mistakes:  It is ok to say we were wrong. Mistakes are meant to be made. We learn and grow from mistakes. A thought to ponder: Are we playing a big enough game if we are not making any mistakes?

Influencing and persuading:   Eleanor always promoted peace, fairness and progress. She was a masterful politician. Much of this came from her ability to listen and be open minded. She knew if you want to be interesting, be interested first.

Anna talked about how her grandmother supported her using the following recipe:
• Listening
• Supporting
• Guiding
• Letting go

Eleanor and granddaughter Anna Eleanor RooseveltThis same recipe is being used by the YWLCS. When twenty-three ladies decided to build a school, they showed the world that coming together and providing vision and care, anything is possible. In an Eleanor Roosevelt way, they believed in the beauty of their dreams.

Why not take action and believe in the beauty of our dreams. We can change the world.

What are your dreams? Or, in Eleanor’s words: What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?”

If you would like to learn more about YWLCS or to donate

Eleanor Roosevelt with a few of her grandchildren.

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