News Article

First Global Leadership Grad Has Outward Focus

Charlotte Simonds Sets the Bar

For as long as she can remember, Charlotte Simonds has been surrounded by strong, intelligent women who have encouraged her to pursue her goals. Her home life is defined by being one of four daughters, and most of her academic life has been in predominantly female-led educational communities.

She also comes from a family which values service to others, and she has travelled worldwide with her father, Robert. Her travels sparked an interest in global initiatives that empower women in developing countries.

So, when she transferred to Oaks Christian School as a junior, it was little surprise that she naturally gravitated to the Institute of Global Leadership (IGL) whose mission is “to nurture and grow ethical servant-leaders with a global perspective.” As she crossed the OCS graduation stage on May 27, 2021, she also became the first graduate of the institute which was established in 2019.

“During my course selection with my college counselor, I read the class description of Introduction to Global Leadership, and I just knew I had to take it. I was drawn to it because I have had a longtime interest in different cultures and how people interact,” she shared. “Looking back at the end of my senior year, Mr. Matt Hurdle (IGL director) completely changed the way I thought about life, how to be a leader, and how to contribute and collaborate.”

Collaboration was a big take away for her from the IGL and led to her decision to attend Yale this fall, a university with a foundational focus on collaboration. She will major in global affairs, but she already has a head start in that area. Three years ago, she travelled with her father to Saudi Arabia and observed what life is like for Saudi women.

“I witnessed the policies and customs in Saudi Arabia limiting basic aspects of women’s daily lives. Although at that time I did not think twice about learning to drive beside my mom, Saudi women did not even have the right to a driver’s license. Observing blatant inequalities sparked what has become one of my passions today: paving a path for gender equality where it has been actively suppressed," she said.

She also met Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, who is spearheading initiatives to propel Saudi women in education, athletics, and independent living. Having candid conversations about these matters with Ambassador Reema inspired her to join future-focused efforts with Kaamen, an organization directly aiding Saudi Arabian women in the workplace. Last summer she completed a virtual internship with Kaamen.

But her focus isn’t just helping women half a world away. She also cares deeply for young women right here in Southern California. For the last four years she has served at A Sense of Home, an agency which helps foster youth who have aged out of the system. Week after week, she has taken nails, raw wooden slats, and tool kits from warehouses in South Los Angeles to help assemble and furnish living spaces for aged-out teens who need a home.

Her work at A Sense of Home has taught her service starts with acts of kindness but doesn’t end there. It is a complex system of goods and skills that can create systemic change if applied on a macro level.

“I believe the underutilized tool for definitive change lies in reexamining what resources really are and applying them in ways that redefine our capacities at large. Although my past involvement with other nonprofits had certainly been gratifying, I identified uncommon elements in A Sense of Home that I found were critical in creating measurable impact: the radical emphasis on hidden resources.”

That level of analysis is what Hurdle and Associate Head of School for Academics Dr. Matt Northrop saw when they met Simonds as a potential IGL candidate.

“We were so impressed with Charlotte from the get-go,” said Hurdle. “She is one of those students who is mature beyond her years, can grasp complex issues, is level headed, down to earth, and compassionate. She has that X factor of having genuine concern for others.”

She has been a role model to other female IGL students, and Hurdle hopes, under the leadership of OCS entrepreneurial teacher Kristin Bell, the institute will continue to develop young, female leaders just like Simonds.