I know the power of a good education. A high-quality education changed my life’s trajectory, from that of a struggling single parent to a senior global marketing manager for Deep Brain Stimulation Neurosurgery at Medtronic, the largest stand-alone medical device company in the world. Education uncovered my love for neuropsychological disorders and opened up opportunities to travel the world, collaborating with neurosurgical teams. I am clear about the power of education.
I didn’t always know how education would frame my life. My teachers did. I attended a good public school in England where teachers believed in every child’s ability to succeed. My low grades and the embarrassment of being at the bottom of my ‘A’ stream class did not deter them. They taught me to enrich myself with knowledge, enjoy learning and reap the rewards of excellence.
Even before relocating across the pond, I knew I would engage the local community by volunteering in the education space. Upon my arrival here, I was stunned to learn that Minnesota has had the widest academic achievement gap in the country between white and black children. The need jolted me. I therefore work tirelessly on educational initiatives, with numerous stakeholders, to close that achievement gap and create educational equity for all children.
Because of a great education, I have unique opportunities and experiences that change and save lives. I also have the responsibility to help pave the way for others. I leverage my experience, skills and connections to help children who look like me overcome the challenges that have persistently plagued our communities, and thrive. I help children visualize and pursue their dreams.
I know that if we seize the moment now, and work together to give our children carefully conceived, well-delivered initiatives, we will create energized, educated citizens who are dedicated to returning the favor and giving back to the children who follow them.
This volunteer work is transformative, even spiritual, providing me with an indescribable sense of satisfaction. When I look at the faces of the children I serve, I can literally see a reflection of my heritage and ancestry. I understand where they have been and where they have the opportunity to go. I also know the obstacles that exist in many of their paths. Part of my purpose in the Twin Cities, I’ve come to believe, is to help clear those obstacles away.
Sylvia Bartley lives in Minneapolis and has worked at Medtronic for 13 years. She holds board leadership positions for the Harvest Network of Schools Charter Management Organization, the African American Leadership Forum and is a board member for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and Achieve Minneapolis. She is a 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow.