by Jen LoPiccolo

Earlier this week, I found myself racing to find the remote to turn off the news as my children walked into the room.  I was watching coverage of Ferguson and afraid they would start to ask questions that I didn’t know how to answer.  


I’ve been reading a lot of stuff online to try to better understand the various viewpoints of this emotionally charged conversation.  After all, words like racism, inequality, protest, police brutality, and white privilege are not easy words to unpack for ourselves, much less discuss with my children.  But I also can’t keep turning off the tv and somehow magically shielding them from it all either (and I know I really don’t want to).


As part of BVP’s August professional development, Leadership Rhode Island facilitated a StrengthsFinder session for the network leadership team during which I learned that one of my top strengths is empathy. I wasn’t all that surprised by the results that included a list of four more strengths and implications for how best to use these strengths to lead and work with others.  


Yet the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson have left me feeling I’m not nearly empathetic enough.


Thankfully, I also know I don’t have to find the words alone.  The BVP team has shown tremendous courage and camaraderie in the past, and I believe we will do it again.  With our shared commitment to put every scholar on a path to success in college and the world beyond as the backdrop, we will continue to help each other utilize our strengths to process the events in Ferguson these last two weeks. In turn, we will be able to grow stronger as a team as we focus on the work ahead.  

Jen began her career as an English teacher in rural North Carolina.  Prior to her current role as Director of External Affairs at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, she spent more than 10 years between Louisiana and Texas working in a variety of roles in the non-profit and charter sectors.  Jen is a member of Leadership Rhode Island’s Theta II class, a Teach For America alum, and the proud mom of two BVP
scholars.