Sheila Schroder: Be Proud of Who You Are
“You can do whatever you want, be whoever you want. You have to work hard and study hard.”
Sheila Schroeder often heard these words from her father while growing up in Indianapolis. As a young Asian-American girl living in the Midwest, Sheila needed to hear these words often.
Born in Tokyo to a German-American father, Dale Schroeder, and a Japanese mother, Fu-sako Schroeder (RIP), Sheila and her family, which includes a sister, came to the United States in the late 1960s. Sheila’s parents decided to move to the United States so their daughters would have greater opportunities.
Life in Indianapolis was sometimes difficult for a young girl who didn’t look like everyone else.
“I experienced racism as an Asian-American as there weren’t a lot of Asian-Americans in our neighborhood community. When I was 9 years old, and my sister, Brenda, was 6, we were playing in the neighborhood and a group of boys began throwing stones at my sister and me and calling us names. We came home crying. My father jumped in his car and went to the family and said, ‘Look, that’s not acceptable. You cannot call people names. You cannot throw stones.’ He really defended us,” said Sheila, who resides in San Francisco with her husband, Jason Phillips, and their 7-year-old twins, Cooper and Athena.
“I also remember being in school and I got into a fight. Someone was calling me names. And I came home and said, ‘I hate being Japanese.’ My mother said, ‘I’m Japanese. I’m proud of who I am. You need to be proud of who you are,’” continued Sheila who earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind. Sheila spent her junior year in Tokyo at Waseda University.
Being a woman was never a detriment to Sheila either.
“My mother came from an academic family who believed in education for both the boys and the girls. My father also had a strong respect for women,” said Sheila, who is the division director of Asian Equity Sales with Macquarie Capital Inc., San Francisco.
Her family values helped her to choose Ladywood-St. Agnes, Indianapolis, for her secondary education. Although the school closed after her freshman year and she graduated from Cathedral High School in 1979, the impact of the Sisters of Providence on her life was great.
“My year at Ladywood-St. Agnes was one of the best educational years that I had had at that point. I’m clearly very much, I’d say, a woman empowered. I’m a feminist. And I feel that is the message that the Sisters of Providence imparted to me during the year I was at Ladywood-St. Agnes,” continued Sheila, who has made provisions for the Congregation in her trust planning.
A former Sister of Providence Diann Neu clearly connected with Sheila through her humanities class. Diann had her students read “Cry the Beloved Country,” a book about South Africa and apartheid.
“It really spoke to me as a child who met with racism myself. It was interesting to be at a school that taught this book and was sending the message that racism is wrong and that one has the right to express herself/himself politically. I think that was kind of radical for a 15-year-old girl in Indiana,” said Sheila.
With the foundation provided by the Sisters of Providence and her family, Sheila has never allowed what others think of her to shape who she has become. To Sheila and her family, life is about acceptance of women, people of color and ethnicity. “It’s a mes- sage that the Sisters of Providence support as well,” concluded Sheila.