By Gergana Kostadinova
Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board.
The “Make Your Mark” presentations were remarkable! They covered a wide range of topics, and each speaker left the audience with an enduring lesson. The overarching message of the morning reminded me of the words of Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
To start the day, Craig Heacock, a 1985 scholar, shared the cutting-edge research to return psychiatry to its shamanistic roots, specifically by using ketamine to treat depression and prevent suicides, and utilizing MDMA, better known as “ecstasy,” to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Craig reminded us to never stop questioning what is possible.
Beth Skelton, a 1984 scholar, told a story from her time as an educator at an international school in Germany, when she discovered the importance of “leading from behind” and creating the social architecture to empower her students to create their own experiences.
Veronica Fernandez Diaz, a 2015 scholar, recounted how the Boettcher Foundation made her baggage of living as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient, easier to carry. She shared how she is constantly fighting to convince people of the humanity of her community, and challenged us to “Be Active. Do Something,” and stand up against injustice.
Jeff Bauer, a 1965 scholar, had a successful career as a health futurist and medical economist for nearly 50 years before he embarked on a second career as an artist. Jeff encouraged us to take on a new challenge at any age and to consider doing something totally unpredictable. The visual art he shared was fantastic!
Mark Hess, a 1984 scholar, on the other hand, tried to retire once and realized that there’s nothing else he’d rather do than be a teacher because he has observed invaluable lessons from his young students. Mark reminded us to follow the example of kids, who create genuine social connections because they’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
Noha Kikhia, a 2013 scholar, challenged us to rethink community development as a crucial shift towards social change that focuses on empowering people to enact change for themselves and those around them. This model is more effective than seeking to inspire leaders to be independent “changemakers.”
Dee Bradley Baker, a 1981 Boettcher Scholar, shared his experiences as a voice actor and the beauty of bringing characters to life. A sampling of his many famous credits include Klaus from American Dad and Daffy Duck in Space Jam. Dee challenged us to embrace and comprehend those who are different with the same hospitality as fan conventions, and to remain flexible by welcoming our future with many voices.
A special shout-out to Katy Craig, a 1995 Boettcher Scholar and the leadership coach and content developer for the Boettcher Foundation. She served as a flawless emcee and spent the past several months helping the speakers prepare.
To conclude the morning, Lori Prok, chair of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board and 1992 Boettcher Scholar, encouraged the audience to make their mark with a quote from Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision – then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”