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The sign near the entrance of Korte Elementary that greets students and visitors reads “Be An Example.”
As assistant principal Stephanie Merriott walked through the school corridors recently, students hugged her, and others flashed her a smile that she readily returned. She reiterated to a visitor how important those three words are to her and how they reflect in the students’ behavior, especially the girls.
“I want girls especially to see themselves in me,” she said. “I’m always on, and I know everything I do is seen.”
She places a lot of importance on the role she plays not simply as an educator but as a person in the larger realm, she explained.
“Each day, I have the unique opportunity to have an impact on the future of our community,” she said. “The children I work with will be contributing members of our community in the not-too-distant future.”
Merriott is an active member of the Junior Service League and volunteers with the Independence Square Association. She and her husband live on the Square and have made it their calling to be an active participant in its growth.
Growing up she had the support of family, friends and church. She said her “pockets of support” included the teachers and administrators in her schools.
“I have always had this sense of obligation to the community that raised me.”
She recognized that spirit in the Junior Service League, she said.
“They were women who were involved in everything. If you want something done, you ask a woman from JSL and it’ll get done,” she said snapping her fingers for emphasis.
Her mother, however, especially influenced her and gave her grounding in a sense of community, working “countless hours” to build up her own business, support her daughters as a single mom and still keep an immaculate home.
“I remember my mom making sacrifices so that my sister and I were able to succeed,” she said. “My mom instilled in me a belief that I can accomplish anything.”
Merriott said working full time and working toward her doctoral degree was one of her greatest challenges. She felt she couldn’t fully commit 100 percent to any areas of her life. But she said that fulfilling her graduation requirements reiterated how the opportunity helped her grow and realize that her obstacles are no more daunting than anyone else’s.
That sense of empathy pervades everything she does in school and out.
“I hope that when my students see and/or hear about my work in the community, they see an example of someone who genuinely cares, and who feels a personal sense of obligation to contribute to the greater good.”