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Celebrating Innovation
by Steve Tolbert, Chief Financial and Operating Officer

Last week I attended the Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership’s “Innovation Challenge,” during which six finalists presented their ideas and creations to address one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I watched in amazement as each 7th-12th Grade student stood courageously in front of over 800 Upper and Middle School students, faculty, staff and judges to present Powerpoints of their inventions and explain, in 3-5 minutes, why and how each one would positively impact the environment. Each presentation was followed with questions from a panel of experts, and the finalists answered their questions with a sense of calm that made me think “they had been here before.” The round of applause received at the conclusion of each presentation was heartwarming. I left the assembly with a feeling of inspiration I had not felt since my days as an entrepreneur helping start-ups obtain funding from investors.

On the eve of Black History Month, I recall fondly my fascination as a young student reading stories about famous African American inventors who had created solutions to help solve world problems. Among them was Dr. Charles Drew, who pioneered efforts for storing blood plasma for transfusions and organized the first large-scale blood bank. Garrett Morgan created an improved traffic signal with a warning light to alert drivers to prepare to stop, and a respiratory mask that became the prototype for the gas masks used in World War I. Stories of inventors and innovators like these fueled my passion for problem-solving, something that exists to this day in my current role.

Reflecting back on the presentations of the Innovation Challenge finalists and the students who presented their projects at our December Board Meeting, I am encouraged and hopeful that these students’ innovative creations will have a lasting impact for many years to come. Let’s celebrate our innovative Brentwood School leaders of the future!

Happy Friday!

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