Move LifeStyle

Move LifeStyle

Girl Friday: Heather Myrick Arnold


Photography by: {Cynthia Garcia}

Heather Myrick Arnold is a dancer, educator, and events manager for the non-profit organization, P.S. ARTS. I first noticed Heather walking down the hall of the dance department in college years ago, my eye caught by her then-cropped bright blond hair. We were cast in the same piece the following semester, and as we rehearsed, I got to know a Heather a little better–her sweet nature, her silly sense of humor.  After college, and our last curtain call for the re-staging of Martha Graham’s “Acts of Light,” (donning none other than gold spandex unitards designed by Halston, of course), we spent the summer together at a dance program on the coast of Italy. Traveling is often revealing of one’s character, not to mention sharing a room with someone for eight weeks, but we grew ever closer, sharing ourselves, our fears, our dreams. Heather has a kind of magnetism about her. She radiates a genuine kindness rare to this world. She’s an honest soul, a friend in the truest sense; she cares and feels so deeply for those in her life. Now, working for P.S. ARTS and having just received her Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship, she’s focusing on bettering the lives of those outside of her immediate reach. I am honored to call her my friend, and it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce her to you.

You’re the Events Manager at P.S. ARTS. Tell us a little about non-profit arts organization and more about your role there. 
P.S. ARTS is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives by bringing arts education to their schools and communities. Currently, we serve 30 different elementary and middle schools with some combination of dance, music, theater and/or visual arts. We employ the teaching artists who are working in these schools so as to ensure every student at the school is getting art class at least once a week for the entire school year. This is our 21st school year, and we have some really exciting collaborative initiatives taking place in the South Bay as well as some program expansion of those benefiting students with special needs.

I, along with a super-awesome team of colleagues and volunteers, plan and execute our fundraising events. We do three large-scale signature fundraising events every fiscal year and then 10-15 smaller scale events in partnership with brands or other organizations. I do whatever has to get to done in order to make the events happen including invite and guest list coordination, coordinate fundraising efforts, venue logistics, food and beverage logistics, committee relations, permits, parking and merchandise sales. I love organizing events and feel fortunate to be able to execute events that benefit a cause in which I truly believe.

Your undergrad degree is in Liberal Arts and Dance, which led you to a teaching position right out of college at the Palos Verdes high school. What was that experience like?
I struggled with taking a job in an affluent community since I always pictured myself working in a more undeserved community. I wanted to invest in students who did not have many choices for positive role models, but after student-teaching, completing my credential, spending a summer searching job listings and sending my resume to every school with listings my qualifications matched, Palos Verdes was the first place to offer me a job. The job they offered me was also a full time job teaching four different levels of dance. In my wildest dreams of becoming a teacher, I never thought I would land a full-time dance job as my first assignment…there are just are not that many out there, and they are often snapped up by veteran teachers. With all of those factors working against me, this job felt very “meant to be,” so I took it and am so thrilled I did. I did however come to learn that no matter how affluent the community is, kids still need positive influences in their lives. Even though my students came from an affluent area, they definitely still had their share of challenges.

the potential of high school students and our ability to instill good things in them as they become adults is one of our greatest societal resources

I really relish my memories as a teacher. I was lucky enough to spend more than one school year with a number of students, so it was fascinating to really learn how students grow and mature in their high school tenure. The potential of high school students and our ability to instill good things in them as they become adults is one of our greatest societal resources, I think. One of the biggest lessons I learned about how to be a good teacher is that students need a mentor…not just a teacher, and not just a friend. They need someone they can talk to but who will be honest with them, help them see answers without giving the answers to them, and to assure them that what seems so important right now will not matter as much in the future, while still making them feel that what they have to say is important. I got this equation right maybe half as many times as I wanted to, but it was so worth it to try as many times as I could.

Art programs are sadly often the first cut from school curriculum.What do you think the value of arts and arts education is? 
Arts education is both a means of self-expression and a means of learning. Arts education has both cognitive and emotional/behavioral benefits while most subjects do not offer both.

arts education helps kids learn how to think and not what to think

When self-expression and learning are combined, kids learn in the most optimal way. There is room for choice and this lets kids find their own connections to the material.
For example, if a kindergartner engages in a visual arts lesson about making patterns in which their finished product should include a pattern, but they get to choose the colors and shapes of those patterns, that student will understand patterns better than if a teacher told them what kind of pattern to draw. Their brain will have formed a better connection with the material since they got to choose the pattern that was meaningful to them. This is such a simple example, but in essence, arts education helps kids learn how to think and not what to think. Someone much, much smarter than me does a way better job explaining it then I ever could: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” -Albert Einstein

You’ve just completed your Masters degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Change at Pepperdine University. Congratulations! Tell us more about the focus of the program and what drew you to it.
Working in both public school and non-profit, I have been exposed to the constant need for two things: money and creative solutions. Often times a lack of money leads to creative solutions, but when you have both, you can really find a sweet spot in making positive change. Social entrepreneurship offers ideas on how to create both. A social entrepreneur can have various characteristics, but the heart of it is found in the business of doing good. Pepperdine’s program seeks to instill the necessary tools for social entrepreneurship in its Master’s candidates. We study visioning, finance, management, marketing, fundraising, research and evaluation, theories of change and local and global social change initiatives.
As a social entrepreneur, I hope to look for creative ways to raise money but also to make money while creating positive change in my local and global community. With the creation of various hybrid models such as Benefit Corporations, crowd-funding and Conscious Capitalism, there is a paradigm shift happening where companies are starting be judged not only how much money they are making, but how much good they are doing. It is common now for companies to invest in sustainability efforts and use marketing dollars to partner with charities. I think this priority shift will change the world.
This Master’s program has equipped me to be in this space where people are in business to provide for themselves but also to provide for a greater good.

You traveled recently to bring arts programs to a small community in Nicaragua. What was your experience there like? 
As part of the above mentioned Master’s program, I was required to plan and execute an international trip in order to put some of the skills I have learned into practice. A colleague of mine, and a graduate of the program, is a Director for NICA and recently implemented a volunteer program.
NICA is a well-established organization working in El Transito, Nicaragua where they focus their efforts on education, community and infrastructure development. While I was there, I got to provide a dance class to about 10 girls and work with kids to paint a mural. The public school system is very lacking in rural Nicaragua, so one of NICA’s programs is providing after-school enrichment activities for kids through whatever talents volunteers have to offer. I also worked with the El Transito Center for Art (ETCA) on some of their business development concepts. ETCA provides micro-loans to women, offers employment opportunities through a sewing co-op and houses a small 1,000 book library for the town.
Geographically, I was completely out of my comfort zone, but it was awesome to use teaching and social entrepreneurship skills side by side in order to have a small but hopefully meaningful impact on El Transito. By the end of two weeks, I had found another home, and I look forward to going back sometime.

You’re newly married, work full time, and both you and your husband just completed Masters programs. With such incredibly busy schedules, how do you find time to spend together?
Not always very easily or very seamlessly, but we continue to try, so I think that means we doing okay. I feel like as long as we are still trying, we are still solid. When we first started school it was all about efficient communication. We shared Google calendars and sent each other emails with our weekend schedules. We would schedule time with each other around school and work functions by trading Gchat or text messages. At the time this efficiency was exactly what we needed. We were able to fit in date nights because we scheduled them weeks in advance. This insane organization gave us a sense of normalcy.
Now we are finding that our hyper-organization has sucked all the romance and spontaneity out of our household. Ha! I knew I was in trouble when he gchated me while I was in our spare bedroom/office from our bedroom to see if I wanted to get frozen yogurt, and I checked to see if it was on the calendar. I thought maybe I had forgotten we scheduled a mini-date. When I saw it wasn’t on the calendar, I didn’t understand why he was asking… Then I thought, “Oh wait, he’s asking because he likes spending time with me and that’s a good thing!” I told him this thought process and we laughed together about it.
Now that we see the end in sight, we are just trying to be patient. Friday night date night and Sunday brunches will be here again, along with reading for pleasure, cooking proper dinners and seeing friends and family more often. Until then, I am thankful for Google cals, Gchat and text messages, and these lessons in marital patience, grace a general “make it work-ness.”

Do you plan to have children in the future? Have your recent life experiences influenced your plans for a family?
We would definitely like to have kids. One of my favorite topics of conversation, (ahem…after a glass of wine, maybe?), is to talk what we would like to name our future children. When we started school, I actually thought we would be hoping to be pregnant by the time we were graduating, but we are now planning to wait a little longer. We would like just a little more time to ourselves once school is done to selfishly enjoy lazy Saturday mornings and spur of the moment ‘daycations’. He also went to Nicaragua with me, and that inspired us to hopefully travel a bit more and maybe even go somewhere a little longer term to do some more volunteer work. We certainly hope to welcome baby Arnold someday, but not just yet.

You’ve traveled quite a bit. What’s been your favorite place you’ve visited so far? Do you have any travel tips to share?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I have a favorite something from every place I have ever been, whether it be a food, adventure, memento, or person I’ve met, so it’s tough/hard/difficult/borderline impossible to choose one favorite place. I feel like I have learned something incredible from every place I have visited and have created incredible memories every place I have gone. Also, each place is special depending on who I went there with, so not only can I not choose a favorite place, but I can’t choose a favorite friend! Ha! Not to mention there are so so so many more places to go!
As much as I enjoy travel, it is quite anxiety-inducing for me. I am claustrophobic, so airplanes and I don’t always get along. In order to enjoy the trip, (and let those around me enjoy it too),  I have to take something for my anxiety when I fly. On days when my feet are on the ground, I don’t need anxiety medication, but every time I get in giant metal tube, put my life in the pilot’s hands and hover over the earth at great distances, I need a little help to cope. So, this makes my travel tip: Do what works for you. For me this is packing in a carry-on whenever possible, (even if it means repeating an outfit), bringing my Tumi neck pillow, (by far the best on the market), packing a giant supply of Luna bars and magazines and taking my prescription. For others it could just mean getting to the 3 hours airport early, bringing 10 pairs of shoes or taking advantage of every in-flight entertainment option. As long as it doesn’t harsh anyone else’s mellow, I say go for it. It’s your vacation too.

What do you consider to be your hardest won or most treasured life lesson?
I think I finally know that it doesn’t so much matter what people think about me, and it really does me no good to take anything personally. I have struggled for as long as I can remember with never really feeling like I was enough. Not smart enough, nice enough, good enough or doing enough. I constantly compared myself to other people and lamented when things seemed to be going more right for someone else. In some ways this drove me work harder and try my best at everything but it also really weighed harshly on my self-esteem. I did not necessarily have an ‘ah-ha’ moment when it comes to knowing that enough is enough, but through life lessons, (and a therapy session or two),  I have definitely come to realize that there is just no need. No need to compare myself to others or worry about what other people think. Everyone has their worries and shortcomings, so it’s more than fine for me to have them, too. I also realized that most people’s reactions have to do with their own selves rather than anything I have control over. I still want to do my best at things, but it doesn’t necessarily consume me.

What are you most enjoying learning about yourself lately?
We recently did a StrengthsFinder assessment in school where you look at your personality along with your communication and management styles to find your areas of strength. What is interesting about StrengthFinder is that it gives you your top 5 strengths and then encourages you to surround yourself with people of different strengths rather than trying to develop your weakness. This was such a fascinating concept to me! Where a number of these types of assessments rank your strengths and weaknesses together in order to give you ideas on how to develop your weakness, Strenghtfinder kinda says, “Why bother?” Your time is more efficiently spent using your strengths rather than developing your weaknesses since their research showed that our weaknesses are never really going to develop past mediocre anyway. Two of my strengths have to do with constancy and discipline in getting work done, so I would benefit from being teamed up with someone who had flexibility as one of their strengths. While consistency and discipline enable me to complete tasks at hand, they can make me rigid. Someone who is flexible would in theory loosen me up. This shift in thinking was totally enlightening and brings about a sense of freedom to be who we naturally are but also a freedom to be our true best selves in collaboration with others.

How do you envision your future?
In the future someone will have

My hope is that I get to leave this earth just a teeny-tiny bit better than I found it.

invented something that makes our days 10-15 hours longer so I can take all the classes, have all the jobs and go all the places I want to, right? Because I have so many things that I want to fit into this life! But, if on the off-chance this does not happen, I think/hope my future will be content and happy and that I am still learning new things and getting to invest in some combination of friends, family, kids and worthy causes. My hope is that I get to leave this earth just a teeny-tiny bit better than I found it.

Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce. If you like this series, click here for more Girl Friday Interviews.

Photography by: Cynthia Garcia

Author Description

Ashley Fauset

Ashley is a party planner, grammar enthusiast, classically trained dancer, and coffee aficionado. She lives in Los Angeles with her musician husband and their hammy four-year-old, and shares her tales of mama-hood at Silver Lake Mom. You can find her online on Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

  • http://www.facebook.com/autumnreeser Autumn Reeser
    Oh my goodness, I want this to be true, Heather!! “In the future someone will have invented something that makes our days 10-15 hours longer so I can take all the classes, have all the jobs and go all the places I want to, right?” Love that. :)
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Move LifeStyle is an e-zine for the modern working woman created by Autumn Reeser, Jenn Wong and Ashley Fauset.

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