Courtney Spence on How Mourning the Loss of a Loved One Brings Family Closer Together

In Chapter 1 of 20 of her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, social entrepreneur Courtney Spence answers "What Childhood Experiences Have Been Most Fundamental to Shaping Who You Are Today?" Spence remembers her grandparents on her mother's side of the family. As a 10 year old, Spence recalls the importance of family coming together in a year where both her maternal grandparents passed away.

Social entrepreneur and storyteller Courtney Spence founded 501c3 nonprofit Students of the World (SOW) to shine a light on progress and celebrate the world's problem solvers. She is building a movement of next-generation storytellers and creative activists through the SOW program The Creative Activist Network. Spence is a graduate of Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: What childhood experiences have been most fundamental to shaping who you are today?

Courtney Spence: I was very close with my sets of grandparents. On my mother’s side, it’s a big Lebanese family, so it’s lots of food, and lots of family, and lots of cousins, fifth removed but if there’s still a cousin. And I think that—so, for me, it was holidays, and good times, and hard times, the family always came together. And you realize that, you know, whenever anything great was achieved, or anything, you know, the passing of a grandparent, anything that was hard to get through, it was really about the family coming together and the community supporting each other. And, you know, I was just talking to my mother about this last night.

We were talking about her parents when they passed, and when we were going through the last year with them where we had to have in-home, you know, nurses, 24/7, and these women came into our home and they were like angels. And, you know, I was 10, but I have very vivid memory of that year. It was the year that I lost both my grandparents on my mother’s side. And although it was a difficult year, I have so many warm memories and so many memories of my family coming together. And I think that as I’m older and as I’m looking at my own family now, and I look at my family and work, and anything that I have achieved, it’s only because of the people and the community that surrounds you, and that supports you, and that brings you into their fold. And, you know, I just think that that appreciation of community and family is something that I continue to strengthen, and understand, and appreciate every year. So, that’s what’s on top of my mind right now.