Beth Roberts has been volunteering ever since she was in middle school, when she was a group leader for her school’s Girl Scout troop. Since then, she has gone on to graduate from the journalism program at Mizzou, work various careers in advertising and marketing, bring a chapter of the National Charity League to St. Louis, and volunteer at Lift For Life Academy as an after school reading mentor. Despite all of these accomplishments, Beth was still compelled to make more of an impact in the community.
“An idea that I’ve always held onto is that, ‘If I don’t do something, then how can I expect anyone else to do something?’” said Beth. “I’ve always felt a social responsibility to pass on what I’ve learned to other women, and as a mother of three girls, I know what it is like working with young women during formative times in their lives. I believe that if you can empower these girls to be strong women, then they can change the course of their friends, families and community.”
Beth saw an opportunity to further her commitment to volunteering at Lift For Life Academy, and at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, she founded a brand new after school program called the Metro Leadership League. In its pilot year, the Metro Leadership League had 12 eighth grade girls meet after school to work with successful female mentors from the community.
“This program has two pillars,” Beth explained. “One pillar is education, leadership and personal development. The other pillar is being of service to our community. We have a challenge because we don’t have much time to go off-campus with the girls, but we still did some projects for the community. We made baby blankets for the babies at Shriner’s Hospital. We made flower arrangements for a nearby nursing home. And we made sandwiches for the homeless people at the St. Patrick’s Center.”
As Beth mentioned, the program complements these acts of community involvement with activities centered on personal development and leadership.
“We want to help the girls realize that in situations where they may feel like they don’t have multiple options, everything is actually a choice,” said Beth. “We had someone come in from UMSL to talk about how choices in middle school can affect their college careers. We had a section that focused on anger management. We did an etiquette session for the amazing end-of-year luncheon that focused on first impressions and appropriate attire.”
The growth that the middle school girls experienced was palpable at the luncheon at the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association that was hosted by Beth’s husband, Don Roberts, and his company, HBM Holdings, at the end of the school year. Not only were the students joined by female community leaders and LFLA teachers/administrators, but they also had the opportunity to show off the skills they had learned from being in the Metro Leadership League.
“At the start of the year, we had each girl stand up and talk about themselves, and many of the girls would stumble or cover their faces in embarrassment,” Beth recalled. “But at the banquet at the end of the year, the girls chose LFLA social worker, Mrs. Kriss, as someone who has character that they want to emulate in their own lives. Each girl stood up at a podium with a microphone and read a tribute they had written to her. They could not have done that last August. I was so proud of them, but most importantly, they were so proud of themselves. They found depth they didn’t know they had in themselves.”
While Beth was proud of the lessons and skills the students learned from being in the program she had created, she also took away a lot more than she expected from the experience.
“I’m learning that difficult paths are worth taking and that patience pays off,” said Beth. “But when you look at each of these girls’ faces, they’re worth it. If we can’t show effort and dedication ourselves, how can we expect effort and dedication from them? They need to feel worth their own effort. By showing up each week, week in and week out, we are helping these girls realize how much they are worth. And it’s a lot.”
Lift For Life Academy is extremely grateful to Beth for all she has done and continues to do within our school community. We’re excited to see what is in store for the next year of this program. Are you a female leader in the community who would like to be a part of making a difference in middle school students’ lives? Contact LFLA volunteer manager, Susan Kelter, at 314-231-2337 ext. 217 or SKelter@liftforlifeacademy.org if you are interested in getting involved as a coach in Beth’s Metro Leadership League.