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Family crucial to success of children

Curtis Dickinson, chairman of the Board of Education, has come far in life thanks to tenacious parenting.

The story of his rise from a meagre background will be among those shared at a full day of free parenting workshops this Saturday.

The expo at CedarBridge Academy is a collaboration of 15 principals from public schools and private schools.

“I was aware of how tough it was, but in other ways we never wanted for anything,” Mr Dickinson recalled.

Mr Dickinson, who is now chairman of the executive committee for the Bermuda Hospitals Board and executive vice-president and head of private banking at Butterfield Bank, credits his mother for motivating him.

“We were presentable, we were clothed well and my sister's hair was neat. You would never have known that our mother was struggling to hold it together.”

Sheila Dickinson-Claridge had to drop out of high school after becoming pregnant at 17 and never had the chance to complete her education.

She fell ill with systemic lupus and lost the use of her legs for a year when Mr Dickinson was 9, but never let her sickness hold her back.

Despite losing her job and struggling to support her family, there was “never any question” that her children would pursue higher education.

“Not going to college was never an option,” he said.

Mr Dickinson was deputy head boy at the Berkeley Institute, then went to the United States to study finance at college before moving on to business school and then diving into the high-pressure executive world of New York.

His mother persevered through decades of illness, found work at the hospital and “notwithstanding her personal struggles, was always focused on taking care of her kids and getting them educated”, Mr Dickinson said.

“My mother's work ethic came from her mother, Mary Burgess, who had seven or eight children to provide for. The option of not doing so was never considered.”

Mr Dickinson's mother died in 2015. Mr Dickinson and his wife, Lisa Lee Dickinson, opted to return to Bermuda after the passing of his grandmother so their children could be closer to his family, including his father, Everard Simmons Sr.

Today, they have three children: Samuel, 15, John 13, and Ellise, who is 9 years old.

Their parents “expect them to be productive citizens”, Mr Dickinson said, and education is an integral part.

He added: “We require them to go to school. We've made it an expectation that they will go to college. We don't tell them what to do in life. We have armed them with the tools they need to be successful.”

Friends sometimes make gentle fun of his immaculate dress and formal bearing, he said, but they attest to the same ethic drilled into him by his mother.

Along with a host of others this Saturday, Mr Dickinson aims to pass on an ethos for parents.

“My hope is in sharing my journey that I can help people understand that it's not always easy. You have to have willingness to do the work needed and be open to accepting the challenge.”

His three children live in “what I would argue to be privilege”, he said.

When the family's lights go out because of a power outage, the children are left with no internet, but “when it happened to us, that was because we hadn't paid the bill”.

“The world seems to move a whole lot faster today. There's an almost insatiable need for instant gratification. Our kids have a lot of stuff coming at them.”

As well as passing on “education as the way to lift yourself up”, Mr Dickinson passes on “the constant struggle to get where I am now”.

He said: “It helps to create a fire in the belly. I know what I don't want to go back to.”

Parenting Expo

The Parenting Expo this Saturday at CedarBridge Academy runs from 4pm to 8pm and is free of charge.

The event comes with a free shuttle from the Hamilton bus terminal, soup and sandwiches, and free child-minding.

Participants are invited to pick two workshops from any two of the three time slots.

Classes range from effective study skills to dealing with child abuse, as well as health issues and the impact of social media.

During the free-time period, a youth fair will be provided in the gymnasium.

A short presentation at the close of the day will follow a 14-minute Technology, Entertainment, Design talk on the role of parents.

Kalmar Richards, the acting commissioner of education; Curtis Dickinson, the chairman of the Board of Education, and Deryn Lavell, the head of school at Saltus, will share their views.

Workshops are held between 4.30pm to 5.15pm, 5.30pm to 6.15pm, and 6.30pm to 7.15pm.

For the full list of events offered at the Parent Expo, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

Curtis Dickinson

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Published January 17, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated January 17, 2018 at 9:18 am)

Family crucial to success of children

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