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Culver Women’s Celebration speakers urge students to seek to help lift others

Tom Coyne
Lala Freeman '23 (left) and Brighton Bird '23 (right) present certificates to Sandy Markle (left) and Erica Bogdan '12 at the Culver Women's Celebration. 

March 3, 2023

Erica Bogdan ’12 and Sandy Markle urged students at Culver Girls Academy to work to help lift other women in life, especially in the workplace, rather than seeing them as competitors.

Bogdan, a customer success manager at Google, said lifting others can appear hard because there’s a fear that by helping someone else “there’s not going to be enough for me.”

“But my learning and my experience throughout my 20s has been what you put out comes back to you tenfold, guaranteed,” she said as one of the keynote speakers at the Culver Women’s Celebration on Tuesday night. “Your ability to lift someone else or put someone else in a better position does not limit what's available to you. If anything, it increases what's available to both of you.”

Sophia Markle ’23 said she nominated her mother to speak at the event at Eppley Auditorium because “she truly embodies CWC’s theme of ‘Learn to Lift.’ She would drop anything to help the ones that she loves and has raised my sister and me on the motto, ‘Our only competition is ourselves.’ ”

Sandy Markle speaks to CGA students at the Culver Women's Celebration on Tuesday.


Sandy Markle is the global supplier partnership lead for Randstad, the world’s largest staffing company, where she also is chair for the company's woman's business resource group where she leads a team dedicated to creating a culture designed to include, empower, and develop the women at Randstad.

“I really feel like our only competition is who we were yesterday,” she told the students.

She put on the screen behind her a quote from Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, that read: “Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.”

She said that philosophy creates a disarming, comfortable and supportive environment where everybody feeds off that energy together. She said she reminds herself of that quote when she finds herself feeling jealous of others.

“Shifting to a vibe of lifting yourself up, lifting each other up, creates confidence and creates connection,” she said.


Erica Bogdan talks about the cycle of lifting. 


Bogdan told the girls about a time when she felt jealousy toward a classmate when she was at Culver. Bogdan had never ridden a horse before she arrived at Culver, but got involved with the Equestriennes. She knew she was behind the other riders, but worked hard to catch up, especially during the summer between her sophomore and junior years.

She was excited to be part of the team that would be taking part in two rides at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. Two weeks before the event, she was told she was being replaced on one of the rides by an underclassman who was a stronger rider.

“Those feelings of jealousy and embarrassment that came up were so real. I couldn't ignore them. But I also couldn’t hold it against the girl that replaced me. She didn't ask to replace me. She was just, she had the background. She had the experience, and we were representing Culver in this amazing big thing,” she said.

Bogdan said she knew she had a choice to make. She could give the girl the cold shoulder and refuse to help her, or she could support her.

“It was hard for me to kind of pull myself up and say to this underclassman, ‘OK I'm going to show up for you. I'm going to be a good teammate to you.’ That was really hard,” she said. “It took a lot of pushing through my own feelings of embarrassment and jealousy to say this is not about her, this is about me.”


Senior prefects Jacinta Ndubuisi-Obi (left), McKenna Littleton (center), and Lucy Burk recite a poem they wrote.


This year’s CWC event also included the three senior prefects, Jacinta Ndubuisi-Obi, McKenna Littleton, and Lucy Burk, reading a poem they wrote together about growing up and constantly comparing themselves with others and becoming jealous and resentful and about women being told to “stay inside where you belong.”

Here is a portion of their poem:

“Imagine a community where there is no ladder.

A community where we can admire the qualities of other women

Grow with other women

Embrace other women

And learn to lift other women”

Three students were recognized for their entries in the “Learn to Lift” theme. Kareemat Adaegbo ’25 of Indianapolis, won third place for a poem she wrote about growing up, which she said was inspired by a conversation she had with a friend.

“Well Dear Friend:

We will slowly but surely disappear from each other's life.

One day you will remember you had a friend,

And I will remember i had a friend,

And we will wonder whatever happened to us.

And the next day forget again and move on with our lives.”

Angela Tang ’24 of Beijing, China, won second place for a painting of a dancer she said she painted when she was at the lowest point in dealing with an eating disorder. She said she is part of a generation that is focused on “fitting in with social groups and being popular,” and spoke about trying to be “skinnier, smarter, more beautiful and less vulnerable.”

She said the painting was of a dancer who reminded her of a white swan taking flight “letting me see how beautiful her soul is. This dancer showed me the freedom of unconstrained expression and the courage of pursuing one’s own goals.”

Burk, who is from Indianapolis, performed a dance she said she choreographed to help express the grief she felt when her parents divorced.

“During this time, I found myself drifting away from friends and getting really upset easily. However, during this time I continued to dance and I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of women. I was nervous to share my emotional self on stage, but my teammates have always reminded me that they’re there to support me through any challenge. I’m so grateful for my instructors for pushing me out of my comfort zone and helping me through this process,” she said.

At the end of the event Tuesday, students were given “Lift” bracelets to remind them to help others.

On Wednesday, CGA students worked on service projects throughout  Culver and campus as a way of giving back to the community. Among the places they went to perform community service were the Hole in the Woods Farm, the Humane Societies of Fulton and Starke counties, Miller’s Merry Manor and the Wesley Thrift Shop.

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