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Society / Profiles

The Woman Behind the All-Girls Public High Schools that Change Texas Lives

A Life of Giving Back, Music and Tackling Challenges

BY Sally Tamez-Martinez // 09.11.17

As a student at Dallas’ Irma L. Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School — a public all-girls college preparatory school started by Young Women’s Preparatory Network nonprofit — I have been given opportunities I might never have encountered.

Among them, an internship with PaperCity magazine this summer, and the chance to interview Lynn McBee, CEO of YWPN. McBee dramatically transforms countless girls’ lives through her role, partnering with Texas school districts in struggling urban neighborhoods to establish all-girls public high schools.

“I am moved by the strength, determination, grit, hard work, resiliency, and maturity of our young women,” McBee says. “They are amazing, and their character and drive make me work harder every day.”

The YWPN is just one of many charitable organizations McBee’s involved in. She’s chairman of the board of The Family Place Foundation; chairman of the board of the Bridge Homeless Shelter; serves on the board of directors for the Salvation Army and AT&T Performing Arts Center; is a past president and ball chairman for the Junior League of Dallas; a past call chairman of the Cattle Baron’s Ball; and the list goes on.

In our inspiring conversation, she details how she first found a love for philanthropy, expands on her passion for piano, and shares the key to balancing her many projects.

Growing up, how did you become involved with volunteering?
Volunteering was a large part of my life. My grandmother and parents were longstanding volunteers, so it was part of my DNA. I was a candy striper at the community hospital, played piano at the local convalescent home on weekends, and volunteered with church can-food drives, bake sales, and car washes.

You’re a classically trained pianist. Where did you study? What pieces do you like to play?
I started in the second grade with a classically trained teacher from Vassar College. After her passing, I studied with Iona Walzel, whose son Scott Walzel is currently a principal bassoon player with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. I also studied oboe with Robert Walzel, son of Iona and brother of Scott — a very musical family!

I’ve played in local and regional concerto competitions. My favorite pieces are Chopin Waltz (“Minute”), Op. 64, No. 1; Saint-Saens, “The Swan”; and Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major.

When you’re not working, where do you love to travel, and why?
I enjoy the beach (our family has a house on the coast), a good book, and a movie theater.

Lynn McBee (Photo by Steve Wrubel)
Lynn McBee (Photo by Steve Wrubel)

As CEO of the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, what are your duties?
I spend my days and weeks working with eight public school districts across Texas to make sure our young women receive rigorous academic coursework and extended-learning opportunities in preparation for college.

I have a very talented staff at YWPN. We work together to achieve these objectives through meetings, strategic planning, budget planning, reading and reviewing proposals, grant writing, and speaking engagements.

What do you love most about what the YWPN does for its communities?
YWPN is transforming public education. We are providing opportunities for low-income young women who come from poverty, single-parent households, and racial barriers to attend college, earn a degree, and be successful in life. 

Is there something you’ve experienced or a story you’ve heard during your time with the YWPN that still sticks with you?
There are many stories that have touched me over the years. I think the quote that makes me most proud is one from a girl named Erika, when she was a senior at Irma Rangel:

“If I had stayed at my neighborhood school, I’d be planning a wedding or a baby shower like my best friends,” Erika said. “Instead, I’m planning to go to college.” She graduated from Austin College in 2016.

How do you balance all of your philanthropic responsibilities?
I am blessed with the ability to organize, set priorities, and build teams well. It’s never about one individual, rather the team that is surrounding that person. I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people in my philanthropic endeavors, and we have accomplished a lot.

I treat my philanthropic responsibilities like a paying job. I am 100-percent committed. I would never want to let anyone down who is counting on me.

Is there anything else you’d still love to accomplish?
I am always in “grow mode” and will be the rest of my life, so yes. Every day, I am learning and accomplishing more, and I look forward to seeing where life takes me.

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