#ANC19 Keynote Ashley Rhodes-Courter Offers Powerful Message in Closing Session


titan-bookingUrging thousands of school nutrition professionals to never forget the impact they have in a child’s life, best-selling author, motivational speaker, social worker and mother, Ashley Rhodes-Courter shared how small acts of kindness were a game changer for her and other children in the closing general session of SNA’s 2019 Annual National Conference in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 16.

“Sometimes we forget what all of this is really for; what your impact truly is,” stated Rhodes-Courter, who entered into the U.S. foster care system at the age of three before being adopted nine years later. “I never want you to forget the importance of the smallest act of kindness and what that impact truly means. You are drawn to a cause that’s so much greater than yourself.”

As she spoke to the crowd, Rhodes-Courter wove in her own personal story with the story of many American children today. “My story is not unique. It is absolutely not the only one, but positive outcomes even in the darkest of circumstances can be created.

“What we’re seeing nationally is a true crisis with families. The cycle of abuse, the cycle of poverty, the cycle of neglect; all these things are putting additional strains on many families and many communities. You are on the front lines of what is happening. You have a direct impact on the lives of kids. What’s special about that is that there are some kids like me who saw school as a sanctuary.”

For Rhodes-Courter, her education was truly something she could call her own—it could not be taken away. When she was at school, she wasn’t abused and had access to free breakfasts and lunches. Sometimes those were the only meals she received in a day. “Your presence is making sure that children feel heard and loved. There’s nothing that’s more precious than that.”

It’s the small acts of kindness that can have a profound impact on a child, urged Rhodes-Courter. Recounting the adults who knew her favorite foods, colors and school subjects as a young girl, Rhodes-Courter felt more connected to her school community. She felt safe. She felt seen.

And she encouraged attendees to continue to practice acts of kindness in their schools and get to know students personally—even learning the color of their eyes. “Because of the time and the perception that you have, you are ensuring that these kids have a place. There is an adult who notices them, who smiles at them. You would be amazed at how much young people look up to you. Every day you have the opportunity to positively impact someone’s life.

I don’t think I ever properly thanked the adults in my life who were so instrumental in helping me. I get to spend my adult life thanking the people like you who are helping ensure that kids have a healthy and strong foundation to carry them into their adult life.

So on behalf of the thousands of children that professionals like you serve every day, I want you to know that without you, there would be so many more kids falling through the cracks. I want to thank you so much for everything you have done, are doing, but most importantly, what you will be doing. What you will be doing is saving lives like mine.”

After her speech, attendees enjoyed a meet and greet with Ashley at her book signing in the ANC Exhibit Hall. Find out more about Ashely and her work on her website. Ashley is also available for bookings through SNA’s contact, Ron Blackmore at NextLevel Talent.

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