Education

Commencement address inspires others to ‘climb your mountain’

July 13, 2015 by Margo Myers
Mindy Huntington-Frazier (left) and Sarah Schofield (right) took commencement speaker Rowlanda Cawthon's advice to heart.

Mindy Huntington-Frazier (left) and Sarah Schofield (right) took commencement speaker Rowlanda Cawthon’s advice to heart.

When Brandman University commencement speaker Dr. Rowlanda Cawthon encouraged graduates to “climb your mountain” and face challenges head on, little did she know the impact her words would have. Sarah Schofield and Mindy Huntington-Frazier attended the ceremony to see Huntington-Frazier’s father receive his master’s degree, and the two young women took that phrase to heart.

Two weeks later, Cawthon’s inbox contained an email from Schofield and Huntington-Frazier that read in part, “we were incredibly moved by your speech that graduation day. Your words buried deep within us, where in the last few weeks they have grown into a community-transforming symbolic and tangible mantra – climb your mountain. You have accomplished your goal to ‘transform lives.’”

Schofield and Huntington-Frazier, who will graduate this summer with Master of Science degrees in nursing from Pacific Lutheran University, went on in the email to explain their mission. They’ve launched Parkland Community Change – a nursing-based community health resource center for people in their neighborhood. “I’m usually a quick responder,” said Cawthon. “But I had to process the impact of this email, that speech, and think about how powerful words can be.”

About a month after the two women opened the community health center, a large group of homeless teens started “hanging out” in the Parkland neighborhood, and the two women watched as the teens drank, smoked pot, got into fights, and “generally disrupted the local business owners.”

“We reached out to see how we could help,” said Schofield. “We found out that many of them have high aspirations for moving forward. And then we learned one of them wanted to get his GED, but he didn’t have any identification, so he couldn’t get a job to pay for it.” What the women heard him saying was “I have a really big mountain to climb in order to reach the base of my real mountain.”

Motivated by Cawthon’s speech, they took a big leap. The pair formed the Mountain Climbers as their first community outreach program at the health center, designing it specifically for youth and the challenges they are facing. They’re helping the teens get books, study, take tests and move them toward getting their high school diplomas. “It’s an honor for us to be trusted,” said Huntington-Frazier. “We want our community to feel safe and comfortable with us.”

About five teens are now members of the Mountain Climbers, starting on the path to their GEDs, getting jobs and getting off the street. On this day, Schofield and Huntington-Frazier are meeting face to face with the woman who inspired them. Cawthon sweeps into their storefront space, offering hugs and words of encouragement. “Are you ladies excited?” asks Cawthon. And the three immediately begin brainstorming ways that they can work together to expand the Mountain Climbers, helping even more teens in similar, seemingly hopeless situations.

What’s remarkable is Schofield and Huntington-Frazier are only 24 and 26 years old. “People told us we’re too young to do this, and that we’re bleeding hearts,” said Huntington-Frazier. “But we believe in ourselves, and we know this is our mountain.” The pair met in nursing school, and are already business partners in Quantum Health, LLC. They provide consultation services to lawyers for medical cases, such as medical malpractice, workers compensation and personal injury, which have ended up in litigation. “That business is helping pay for Parkland Community Change,” said Schofield. “Our hearts are with improving the health of our community.”

Schofield and Huntington-Frazier acknowledge that the climb will be steep. Already, some of the teens are backing off from their studies, or not coming to the center as often as they did at the start. Cawthon urged the women to keep at it, and “don’t let them put out your fire.”

“Our goal is to help these kids meet their goals,” said Schofield. “We want to help them climb their mountains.” Three words – climb your mountain – have the power to transform lives, including those of these two young women, one mountain at a time.

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