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DuPont CEO Tells Girls to Believe in Themselves

Kullman shows students dreams can be reached

The News Journal, Written By: Ira Porter, May 17, 2011

One of the most influential and powerful women in Delaware and the corporate world shared words of wisdom with a classroom of girls who one day want to be successful just like her.

Ellen J. Kullman, CEO of DuPont, spoke for an hour to more than two-dozen seventh- and eighth-graders at Serviam Girls Academy in New Castle Monday. Kullman, originally from Brandywine Hundred, shared her experiences of being educated locally at Saint Mary Magdalen and Tower Hill School before she went off to Tufts University and Northwestern University. From there, the mechanical engineer who always liked to solve puzzles became CEO of one of America's most successful companies.

"As you go forward, the world can be anything you want it to be," Kullman told the girls. "And if you believe in yourself, others will believe in you." The opposite of that statement was true as well, she said, which made it more important for the girls to believe in themselves.

Kullman serves on the Advisory Council for Serviam Girls Academy, started three years ago as a school for impoverished, at-risk girls from fifth to eighth grades. The school is faith-based and tuition varies. It has extended days and an extended school year. The first class will graduate in June and some of the students will receive full-ride scholarships to private schools.

Kullman shared with the students how she got a scholarship to Tower Hill and how a history teacher helped guide her toward engineering.

"I think this supports our dreams. You can see proof of somebody that actually accomplished their dreams, which inspires me to accomplish mine," said Mariana Lopez, 14, of Wilmington.

Mariana wants to be an archaeologist.

Her friend Danielle Myrie, 13, wants to be a fashion designer.

"It was inspirational because some people might not want to come and talk to us," Danielle said. "It makes me feel like I can actually do what I want to do if I focus on it."

Kullman underscored the importance of students working in teams. People who work well in team activities are the kind of people she looks to hire, she said.

She also noted the demand for talented young people who are good in math and science and urged students to see the fun and creative ways to use science.

She told them her keys to success were to never regret decisions that have been made, like what you do for a living, and to believe in themselves.