Devin DeMartini Cooke {Women On A Mission}

Earth Lover. Jungle Baby. Life-Long-Learner.

If we all come into this world with a single purpose, Devin's was to love. She is one of those rare people who will sit with you through thick and thin without judgement. She offers grounded advice that is compassionate yet tough love. She doesn't sugar coat things, but she does say them with love. 

She makes it a point to look out for the under dog. Often times that means defending injustice, cruelty, or environmental pollution. I've never met some who was quite as gifted with plants or children. This earth child is definitely here to teach use the importance of being intentional and that for better or worse, our actions have consequences. But everyday is chance to make a better choice. 

In Her Own Words:

We are gifted so many chances in this life.  To do wonderful things.  In very normal ways.  The things we do, the choices we make, the risks we take for happiness and more importantly for love – of family, of friends, of what we believe to be just and kind, of the heart – will change us.  Will hopefully make us better, redefine what it means to be strong and to be human.  To be open.  Will allow us to be the people we were meant to be.  The women  we are capable of being.

Who I Am: I am a believer in all things connected and compassionate.  I believe in humanity,  in love. In connection - to the earth, to other people, to ourselves. I believe in being open to whatever life offers us and to finding a way to contentment and peace with who we have chosen to be. 

I  focus on projects and people that are engaging and exciting, turning the blending of work and life into the art of living and being in a full and meaningful way.

What I Do: I am the Director of Student Life and the International Diploma Coordinator at Convent & Stuart Hall Heart High School.  This really means my job is to care about our young women as they grow as students, as leaders, and as people of courage and integrity. 

It also means being kind, and most often, leading by example. I hold our students to that standard, as well as support them as they develops the skills that will make them most successful and help them to find their own unique and powerful voice. I communicate my love of peoples and cultures to our students and help them to put their lives in a different, more aware and more worldly perspective.

What I Am Passionate About: When I am not shaping the youth of San Francisco, you can find me at Yoga, watering my  many plants, cooking with my husband, or enjoying a glass of wine somewhere that I can sit and listen to the ocean. I also co-lead a surf club for teenage girls - so once a month you will find me waste deep in the Pacific Ocean cheering on some awesome young women.  

How I Got Here: My friends often wonder how I ended up this way. This love child full of glorified "hippie bullshit." I am this way because my parents believe in love. Because I was given unstructured play time in a creek. Because I have friends from cultures vastly different from my own. Because I believe in the healing power of plants, sunshine, and hugs. I try to visit nature often, and  every time I come back better, more in touch with myself. 

With a degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Relations from the UC Davis, I have always had a love for communities and the way they grow and evolve.  This curiosity took me to Burgos, Spain where I studied the people, the culture, of course the wine, and the literature.  

I have used my  international experience and her ability to grow and develop a community throughout my career.  From growing my grandfather’s surf villa in Todos Santos, BCS to developing Biological and Cultural Immersion programs going into the Amazon Rainforest and Costa Rica, my  commitment to cultivating people and communities is a part of who I am, and a big part of what sustains my heart.

With a passion for youth, I  spends the majority of my  time working with high school girls, guiding them toward healthy life choices as well as pushing them to be leaders and global citizens.  


Q&A With Devin

What are you most excited to share with the world? I am excited to be a part of a community of diverse women who are focused on making the world a better place - for each other, and for the future. There is something so inspiring about the stories of others, and recognizing the different paths we all take in search of happiness. I am thrilled to be a part of this story and to support the voices of others. 

What does doing things differently look like to you? As I have gotten older, hopefully wiser, and more settled in my soul, I find myself ruminating on the same topics over and over again. Love, Peace, the concept of Adventure and Change, and of course, the spiritual aspect of the singular and collective universe. I don’t know that I believe in praying, or in a particular religion. I do believe that the idea of God is too big for one religion. I do believe in the power of belief, and most obviously, the power of love. My attraction to faith and belief and hope has always made me feel a little bit different - ‘emotionally based’ if you will. I think that this is a strength, especially for women, that the world is starting to recognize and need more and more. So maybe I’m not so different after all… 

What is the lesson you wish you could go back and teach yourself? I wish I had believed in my own power earlier. There are so many misconceptions about what strength is. I think that not enough credit or fostering is given to ‘gentle’ girls whose ambition might not be as obvious as others. I am grateful that education has changed since I was in high school - and that there is a growing movement around mindfulness and students that are ‘whole-hearted.’ 

Who or what has been the biggest catalyst/impact on who you’ve become? I truly believe that a childhood that was focused on appreciation - for nature, for education, and for family - has fed my natural inclination for kindness and resiliency. My parents are educators, artists, chefs, environmental stewards, and big huggers.

They also believed that I was good and could do good in the world - which had nothing to do with my gender, sexuality, physical appearance and everything to do with my heart and strength of character. I am constantly grateful that I am able to value others and the extreme power of love. 

What is your message to the world/entrepreneurs/mothers/girls? When I am discussing a redirection with a student, or having a difficult conversation with a colleague or friend - I often find myself landing at a place of kindness. The world needs kindness. Intelligent, informed, and thoughtful kindness. There is no weakness is honest connection and dialogue that, while sometimes challenging, brings us together. 

How do you handle the hard parts of marching to the beat of your own drum? With a natural base-line bordering on weepy-feel-good-lifetime-movies, I find that I am often told I need to ‘toughen up’ or work on establishing my authority. While there is always room for growth and personal development, I try to take these recommendations both seriously and with a grain of salt. I am always hoping to be taken seriously and make sure my voice is heard - but this is often grounded in my ability to believe in myself. People won’t listen if you don’t think there is value in what you have to say...

So  I  make a conscious effort to make space for myself and check in with my inner-compass. I teach kindness and empathy to my students - so I do my best to lead by example - and that often starts with myself. I also have a lot of respect for my own heart, which I nurture and listen to often. 

What’s something that everyone loves/talks about but makes no sense to you?  Cupcakes. I just don’t get it. If you love them so much - eat cake. I also don’t have a sweet tooth, so I’m pretty biased. 

What’s are your favorite life hack? I have found so many little tricks if you will. Ways I slip out of the everyday and into the place I consider "real life." The one that coexists somewhere in space between my head and my heart. I rely on walks through the city, getting windblown across Van Ness to push me back into myself. I put my headphones on at work and tune out to some (usually) ridiculous song that I play over and over again while I enter my "personal space."

Or I jump into a yoga class and push myself. Not to a place of pain (I practice ahimsa), but to a place of persistence, a place of focus, a place where there is a green strength that runs the lengths of my sides as if they extend into the grounds like roots. 

Or I sit and watch water. Or I drink a glass of wine with friends. Or I take a bath and hold my breath and let myself forget time and defined space. Or I write. Or, most often, I talk with a student. I ask them about their lives, and passions - and learn more about the future that they are crafting for us all. 

What part of your work do you enjoy the most? Currently, as Director of Student Life, a lot of what I do professionally falls under the category of ‘Experiential Education.’ Since I notably work with young women, there has been a focus in my recent professional goals on teaching Leadership and cultural competency. Luckily (or not luck at all and why I have the job that I do), this aligns well with my personal values.

In our current political climate, my students are feeling confused, lost, angry, and - most importantly/strongly - hopeful. They are constantly thinking of ways to get involved, to give back, to do good, and to educate others. My students give me hope in the future - and that goes way beyond enjoyment. 

What does balance look like? Luckily, I have been blessed at this most confusing time as I search for balance and attempt to build some kind of foundation for a future life - while finding the time and energy to enjoy this place and time, with an ability to find serenity in nature and in myself, and to have the unsolicited support of family that often feels like friends, and friends that often feel like family. For me balance is a mix of yoga, enjoying and protecting the physical world around me, and fostering the relationships that give me joy.  

Where do you find community? I find community in some unusual places. As a teacher, I find community with my students - who happen to be high school girls in San Francisco. This a unique group, that my degree in Cultural Anthropology did not completely prepare me for… but more often than not, I find my students to be people of wonder, kindness, giving, and awesome intellect. These girls truly can change the world.

I also find community in my colleagues. I am blessed to be a part of an extraordinary leadership group of like-minded women who amazingly focused on doing good in world, and bringing our students along with us - or learning from them. It is an amazing place of lady-power that constantly inspires me. I feel privileged to have my ‘work’ be a place of such personal joy - which I believe makes me more successful in cultivating a culture of growth for our students. 

What most excites you? I swear I was a gypsy in a past life. There is something so transient about my nature, as if I'm most comfortable when exploring, experiencing, and immersed in culture. I pretend sometimes when I walk to work in the mornings that I am in some foreign city and remind myself to live my life as if I am always adventuring in something new. 

How do you start and end your day? Most often I start my day saying good morning to the crossing guard at school. To be honest, my day starts about an hour earlier with a shower, detangling my hair, making coffee, and pushing my husband to hurry what seems like a million times.

However, there is something about ‘starting’ my day recognizing the people around me that I work with. I also like to set an example to the many students crossing the street with me in truly seeing those around you. Mr. Ho and I fist bump and we have a running joke about what day it is, and I like to think that the students watching this interaction notice and learn about the importance of connection. Plus Mr. Ho makes me happy. 

What is your favorite Book? Work Hard & Be Nice to People.  I would also leave my husband for Deepok Chopra. 

Also, this: 
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. 
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. 

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. 

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. 
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. 
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. - Max Ehrmann c.1920

 



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