Bilda Acuña Small, the chief enrollment and communications officer at Girls Preparatory School, has been with the school since 2014. She oversees the admission of new students, re-enrollment of existing students, and marketing communications. Before she came to GPS, Small spent 18 years with Unum in marketing communications and market development. She is an Addy Award winner and in 2014 was named one of the top five Latina Executives of the Year by LATINA Style magazine. In 2015, she was the La Paz Latina Leader of the Year recipient. She currently serves on the board of La Paz and has previously served on the board of Girls, Inc. She also enjoys volunteering as a consultant with nonprofits and other independent schools.
What books have you read that influence the way you approach your job and your leadership role?
Recently, I've been immersed in a book by Lisa Damour, Ph.D., entitled "Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood." I've heard Damour speak and her book is as engaging, real, and [as] relatable as she is.
In my role as chief enrollment and communications officer for Girls Preparatory School, her wisdom and experience are invaluable in helping parents understand that girls have unique support needs during their middle and high school years.
The adolescent years for girls can be full of wonder, exploration, and sheer joy. It's a time when girls are transitioning through important stages of self-discovery. But it's also time when parents feel like they're losing their minds trying to support their daughters through the ups and downs of all the changes.
As a parent of three boys, I understand the toll that worry and lack of certainty on how to handle certain situations can have on parents who are also juggling busy careers and many other obligations. Kids don't come with a manual, right? Or maybe Damour has come up with one for girls in her book?
One of her metaphors involves a swimming pool and it really resonated with me (and is applicable to boys). The short version is, the parent is the pool, the water is the world, and the daughter is the swimmer. She gets caught up in her world of friends, activities, and girl life and basically you feel non-existent.
But then something bad or unsettling happens to her, and there she is clinging to the side of the pool — you — to catch her breath and regain her strength. And then she's off again, pushing away from you to explore, test, and find her way in the waters of life. You're her security, her place of refuge, her advisor, her protector when she needs you, and then she doesn't need you again for a while. I find this helpful in understanding my role as a parent. I hope this guide to girls will help other parents as well.
What books are you reading for fun that you're recommending to others?
I do most of my pleasure reading with my boys. Right now we're really enjoying the "Who Was?" "What Was?" and "Where Is?" book series. I've learned so much about Jane Goodall, Neil Armstrong, and Machu Picchu – there are hundreds of books in the series. The stories are engaging and often leave you guessing at the end of each chapter. We can't wait to pick them up again the next night.
What's next on your list of books to read?
I have a friend who has raved about "Try Softer" by Aundi Kolber. It's about self-compassion and cutting yourself a break. This concept is very appealing to me as I see myself and other women around me who drive themselves so hard that we miss the joy in living. I'm looking forward to learning more and being kinder to myself.