Mercy creates leadership program

Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    12.03.2018
Category: Monroe County


Our Lady of Mercy School For Young Women recently announced the launch of an initiative designed to create the next generation of diverse civic, business and community leaders. The Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute will be funded by a gift of more than $1.2 million from the Cheryl and Paul Speranza Foundation as well as the family of Cheryl Speranza, who was a 1965 graduate of the Brighton school.

Before her March 2018 death from pancreatic cancer, Cheryl Speranza was passionate about serving others, and in particular the youth and young women of Rochester, according to her husband, Paul Speranza.

The new leadership institute will be open to all students enrolled in ninth through 12th grades at Mercy, with a particular emphasis on economically disadvantaged women of color.

“Prior to my wife’s passing, she asked me to lead a holy, simple life, continue to help those in need, and make her proud,” Paul Speranza explained. “That’s what I’m trying to do through the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute.”

“This gift provides Mercy with an amazing opportunity, not just for our students, but for the entire Rochester community,” noted Christian Jensen, Mercy’s vice president of institutional advancement.

The leadership institute is intended to help students develop the leadership and academic, spiritual and ethical attributes they will need to become significant high-level civic and business leaders. The institute also will provide funding for at least 11 young women who exhibit the potential to be extraordinary leaders and come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

The leadership institute will be particularly helpful to such emerging leaders who also are economically disadvantaged women of color, according to Bernice A. King, who gave a keynote address at Mercy Nov. 9 after school officials announced the creation of the new institute. King, who is the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, said the institute will contribute to the eventual fulfillment of her father’s dream.

“The very painful truth is that there are very few women of color in high leadership positions in America. Poverty and discrimination prohibit the success of a disproportionate number of women of color. This institute will help address these issues,” she said.

The leadership institute’s inaugural program will begin in the fall of 2019, and scholarship applications are being accepted now. Interested applicants must be students who meet Mercy’s criteria for need-based financial aid, have teacher recommendations, and demonstrate academic promise, natural leadership ability and work ethic. The institute also is seeking a program chair and a youth advocate to staff the program.

To learn more or apply, visit www.speranzainstitute.com.

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