MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In this heavenly edition of Women To Watch, Trend Tracker® Tara Gilani spent divine time with Sister Suzanne Cooke, headmistress of Carrollton School in Coconut Grove. The two strolled the beautiful campus, talking, laughing and celebrating life.
Sister Suzanne Cooke is the beloved headmistress of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in historic Coconut Grove. All girls, pre K through grade 12, Carrollton provides a world class education in a magical Miami setting. Sister Cooke has spent almost 25 years here, devoting herself to the school and students and to ensuring that both devote themselves to the community. She has succeeded brilliantly.
“I’ve been able to see in all of this time, graduates come back with their children. I have handed diplomas to students whose mothers I have taught. It’s been an extraordinary privilege and not every educator gets to see the fruit of her labor and I have,” said Sister Cooke.
She credits many for the success of the school.
“The integrity of the school rests in the adult community. And the adult community comes together as professionals, as talented educators but what really inspires them is the mission of the school,” said Sister Cooke.
Tara asked her what we can all do to empower and inspire girls.
“We need to listen to them and mentor them. We need to pay attention to them and in listening to them, we have to begin believing that listening starts in silence so we have to listen to them. Not answer them before them, before they’ve even told us their dreams. Our conviction that this is really about the future. We are preparing decision makers who are going to affect your life and my life and so had best be attentive to them,” said Sister Cooke.
She worships education and being an educator. Her joy is palpable.
“Every day I touch the future. Every day I see it in the smiles and through the eyes of the children and young women of Carrollton so whether they’re 3 or they’re 18, just embarking on their adventure or they are about to graduate, I get to experience that so it’s so filled with hope,” said Sister Cooke.
She has devoted her life to God.
“My insight about wanting to be a nun did not come until I was 22. I’m a religious of the Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart is an international congregation. We serve in 41 countries. We have schools in 33, so my life is a life of prayer and service and the service is education,” said Sister Cooke.
It’s bittersweet that Sister Cooke is leaving Carrollton in Miami to better serve all Carrollton schools.
“I’m going to Washington and I will be working with our 24 schools in the United States and Canada.”
Finding out she was leaving was a shock until an even bigger shock brought clarity.
“I was diagnosed with cancer. I think my cancer journey has taught me that on a very significant level, I’m not leaving Carrollton. I’m not leaving Miami because who I am today as a 60-year old is very much the fruit of my having been headmistress of Carrollton and the privilege of living here in Miami,” said Sister Cooke.
She is loved by all, especially the girls whose lives she has clearly affected.
“Your light and your presence and your demeanor that you bring is just amazing and gives me the strength to keep going when I think I can’t do it any longer,” said student Cachay Byrd.
Tara asked Sister Cooke to say a prayer for everyone watching and reading.
“Good and gracious God we thank you for this time together. We thank you for the blessing of life. We ask you to enable us and inspire us to give others whom we love the same sense of joy and hope. Amen,” prayed Sister Cooke.
Sister Cooke, from the heart, answered the Trend Tracker®’s round of questions: I will “never forget my time in Miami.” I wont “let change discourage me.” I want “people, especially young people, to have confidence in themselves and look to the future with hope.” I promise “never to forget the blessing that Carrollton has been to me and all that it has done to help me become who I am.” I am “excited about the future.”
Tara ended their time together by saying out loud to no one in particular and everyone in specific: Godspeed and God bless you, lovely and special Sister Cooke, a heaven-sent Woman To Watch.