Verna Price believes everybody has the power to change the world—and themselves
It has nothing to do with your culture, ethnicity, gender, or religion. It’s simply a fact,” Price says. ¶ Price’s perspective was shaped, in part, by her childhood in the Bahamas.
Raised by her grandmother on Cat Island, she was surrounded by “a lot of cousins and a lot of love.” Their impact and her research in educational policy and administration would later allow Price to think of an individual’s effect on another, mapping the four types of change-makers she defines in her book. She uses her power principles in the leadership courses she teaches at the University of Minnesota and the College of St. Catherine, and in workshops and such seminars as the annual Body, Mind, Life Expo at the Convention Center. And her influence has been felt nationally and locally, as evidenced by Price’s media appearances and by a recent award from the Ann Bancroft Foundation, which supports the goals of girls and women.
Administrators at North High School in Minneapolis called on Price 10 years ago when its female students started fighting, skipping school, and dissing others at an alarming rate. What she saw were sharp, smart girls who needed someone to believe in them. So she convinced the school to start Girls in Action in September 2005. The year-long program has helped its 125 participants find personal power, develop leadership traits, put skills into action, and create a life plan.
Price and other women leaders work with each girl to recognize that she—not her parents, teachers, boyfriend, or friends—has the power to change her life. “Once she figures that out, she makes changes on her own,” says Price. At North, the suspension rate for girls is already down 50 percent. The girls’ overall grade point average has increased 63 percent. Fighting has all but disappeared.
Price wants to bring this program to other schools and to spread her message about the power of people. “I am called to teach this to the world,” she says, pointing out that, as an African-American woman, she might not fit the stereotype of the powerful. “Part of my calling is to teach this concept from the perspective of being a woman of color. I really want to empower people. I want to teach them how to get to their next level of excellence,” she says. “I want you to become your most excellent self.” And suddenly, so do you.
Karen Olson is a writer in Minneapolis.