When Cathy Westbury of St. Louis wakes up each morning, she works to fulfill her personal mission statement. Whether she’s helping her students, traveling overseas to Ethiopia or raising funds to educate underprivileged children, Cathy lives and teaches the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” principles developed by best-selling author Stephen Covey.
Cathy, a former elementary school teacher and counselor, is now retired, but works fulltime as the director of Faith-That-Works, a non-profit organization that focuses on creating life-changing events for volunteers with faith-based outreach events for the homeless, elderly, Hispanics or Ethiopians.
She says the group currently is raising funds for children to attain an education at Vision Academy in Hosanna, Ethiopia.
On her first visit to Ethiopia, Cathy and her team assessed the needs of orphans in a small village and conducted leadership training at schools in Hosanna. They also provided encouragement for Somali pastors in the underground church by having a three-day conference for them to unite “for the first time in their lives” and “to worship their God openly and freely,” she said.
One of her favorite memories from Ethiopia is realizing that ninth graders had no need for Covey’s “habit four,” which is “think win-win.”
“I realized this is how they wake up each morning. Win/Win is their default,” she said. “What little they have they are always willing to share. I had just had lunch with the other 13 members of our team in a two-room dirt floor home with no windows with a lovely family as our hosts. I had watched a man literally crawl up the street each morning on my way to school, knee pads on because he’d probably broken both legs at some point in his life, as he joined other men for a morning chat, and he was smiling each day. These students have so much to teach us,” Cathy says.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Southeast Missouri State University, and a Master of Arts in elementary counseling from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
She received the 2013 Peabody Energy Leader in Education. She was recognized for implementing an inclusive leadership model at her elementary school where students “live the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ and where every child’s unique personal strengths are utilized in a leadership role.” She says she was chosen because she had trained hundreds of Missouri and Illinois teachers in implementing a school-wide, comprehensive bully prevention program in collaboration with Missouri NEA and cooperating school districts.
Southeast helped prepare her for her future as a leader and organizer.
“I went into my freshman year as a serious student focused on making good grades. Somewhere along the way, I realized that life required balance as I became involved in my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, and other activities. Even today, if I’m stressed out, I do a mental check of where I am physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally, and adjust,” Cathy says.
One of her favorite moments at Southeast includes being tackled by the Secret Service.
“I was taken ‘down’ by Secret Service during a visit by former vice presidential candidate, Bob Dole. He was in the limousine, pointed to me, and asked if I’d wanted his autograph. I quickly grabbed a spiral notebook and proceeded to hand it to him inside the car, at which point I was tackled by Secret Service,” Cathy says.
Cathy offers some advice to Southeast students.
“There is no substitute for the time invested in relationships. The accomplishments that will matter in your life will not be linked to your salary, time at your workplace or promotions. They will undoubtedly be a direct result of your time spent in getting to know others, especially those you might initially dislike, and sincerely caring about them, listening to them, and ultimately helping them in some way,” she said.
“Never try to take on something by yourself,” she added. “Creating synergy by truly listening to the ideas of others spawns new ideas that would never have been possible by yourself and is the greatest high one can experience.”
Students interested in working with children in Ethiopia through the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” can contact Cathy through her website at www.faith-that-works.org.