Epictetus, the Greek Stoic Philosopher, discussed the wisdom and beauty in being different from others and not following the norms. He compared those who fit the conventional mold to the white threads of a garment. You can’t tell one thread from the next as they are all indistinguishable, he surmised. Epictetus wanted to be a purple thread, a thread that is bright, making the rest graceful and beautiful just by shear contrast. He didn’t want to fit in but rather he wanted to enhance everyone else around him. He wrote, “Why then do you tell me to make myself like the many? How shall I still be purple?”
Mary Hargreaves decided early on she was going to be the purple thread. She was not going to be conventional. She marches to the beat of a different drummer for sure. But the drummer happens to be her kids at Learning Center West. It is there that her light shines and resonates like a purple thread among white ones.
Mary’s parents both worked for the MCESC and so within a year of graduating from the Miami Valley Career Technology Center, Hargreaves came to the MCESC as a substitute. She would later become a one on one and is now a Paraprofessional in the Positive Intervention Room at Learning Center West, acting also as a floater, responding to issues building-wide.
“I make positives out of potentially negative situations,” Hargreaves said. “Responding to the calls around the building, many behavioral-related, I look at it as an opportunity to create a relationship with the kids.”
Relationship-building with the kids drives her. The daily pace at Learning Center West can weigh on the staff but Hargreaves, entering her thirteenth year here at the MCESC, loves the opportunity to create relationships which can lead to a positive difference in a child’s life.
“In some cases we may be the last stop for a child and their parents,” Hargreaves said. “We offer services you can’t find anywhere but more importantly we also offer hope and a safe place.”
Making a difference is a philosophy Mary wears proudly. She is the Union President at the MCESC and is on the Board of Directors for the Western Ohio Educational Association. Serving on state legislative committees is now giving her a platform to make a difference in policy and procedure.
“Right now there is no recourse, because of state laws, for paraprofessionals and educational assistants if they get hurt while on the job. Only teachers, because of their certification are recognized as having recourse. This is not right and we are working to get that corrected,” Hargreaves said.
Hargreaves’ work has been recognized at the district and state levels. She has been awarded the Educational Support Professional of the Year by the Ohio Education Association in 2016 and the Western Ohio Education Association in 2018.
Her ability to think out of the box and develop relationships with the kids is what brings her back each day. Sarcasm, wit, and the ability to be flexible in a pressure-filled moment is seen by her peers as entertaining, inspiring and somewhat magical.
Hargreaves offers this advice to those team members new to the arena:
“If you listen and hear their stories, and some of those stories will break your heart, you can connect with the kids. When it works, it’s magic. You can learn so much from our kids. I know I do. Once you have rapport with them and there is a real relationship, you can step back and see the bigger picture. You will see how you fit in and what good you are capable of contributing. You will then want to come back.
She is like the purple thread, shedding light on those around her and illuminating how their tough job can be a difference-maker in a child’s life. All that’s needed is handling situations maybe a bit out of the box, out of the norm of conventional wisdom, albeit unconventional, like Mary Hargreaves. She shines not only in her approach to her craft but in her sheer determination to make a difference. It makes everyone around her shine as well. Mary Hargreaves is the MCESC.