Our hearts are heavy over the loss of our founder, director and friend, Courtney Mykytyn.
It is with the saddest possible hearts that we share the devastating news that our beloved Executive Director and Founder, Courtney Everts Mykytyn, passed away on Monday afternoon. She was struck by a car in front of her house and was killed instantly. The driver was sober and stayed on the scene. It is being treated as an accident.
Courtney started Integrated Schools and was the driving force behind it, but always insisted that it be about more than just her. While we will feel this loss everyday, the organization will move forward, working toward a more just, more equitable, society. It was her vision alone that inspired a grass roots, nationwide organization, and that vision will continue to guide us. We will share details on a memorial service as they are confirmed.
Details about the accident from The Eastsider
One of many touching tributes to Courtney from Garrett Bucks
Welcome to the Integrated Schools Podcast. I’m Andrew, a white dad from Denver, and sadly, I’m coming to you today with some heartbreaking news. Courtney, my friend, my co-host, and the founder and director of Integrated Schools is dead. She was struck by a car while standing on the sidewalk across the street from her house. She died instantly. The driver was sober and stayed at the scene and it is being investigated as an accident. It would seem that this was a tragic fluke, and one that has robbed the world of an incredible human.
She leaves behind a husband and two incredible kids, who she loved deeply and was so proud of.
I met Courtney less than two years ago. I joined an Integrated Schools book club and she suggested we connect on the phone afterwards. I had an experience that I have come to learn was shared by nearly everyone who knew her - our 20 minute call turned into 2 hours. She called it “getting Paulette-ed” after her mother, who apparently perfected the technique.
She was so easy to talk to, but without ever compromising her values - she didn’t agree with you when you said something stupid, but she didn’t push you away either. She heard you, met you where you were, and then gently (or sometimes not so gently) nudged you towards a deeper, more helpful way of understanding. Even while you were getting called out, you just wanted to keep talking to her.
She was simultaneously fiercely committed to her values, certain of the direction she was heading, while being constantly willing to learn, to grow, to understand differently, and then incorporate that new understanding into her world view.
She took this podcast incredibly seriously without taking herself too seriously. She regularly tried to convince me that what a certain part of an episode needed was her humming in the background. For everyone’s sake, it’s good that I handle the audio editing, But she cared deeply. She wouldn’t sleep well before every episode came out. She wanted to be sure that what we put out reflected our values, while acknowledging that if we had the same views in 3 months, we were doing something wrong. And I mean “our” values - the longest conversations she and I had were trying to come to some shared understanding of what we were really trying to say, and why. And while these were high stakes conversations about deeply personal work, she never took it personally. We would disagree about something and I would feel myself getting defensive and instead of getting defensive herself, she would dig deeper, and try to really understand why I couldn’t see it from her point of view. She’d say “ok - say that again some other way” as she tried to understand where I was coming from, and then she’d take a new approach to convincing me. Sometimes she did, occasionally I won her over, but we always ended in a place we were both comfortable with. She refused to go back and listen to past episodes, because she knew that, if we were to do it again, we would land on some different phrasing, some different understanding that reflected all we had learned.
This rambling account of just some of what made her special is about all I can muster at the moment, and she’d probably be mad that I was doing an entire episode just about her, anyway, but suffice to say, I am not alone in feeling this loss, As this news spread on social media, the comments came flowing in - the number of people whose lives she touched, who felt that personal connection to her, who made braver choices and made them better because of her work is overwhelming. And while that impact is more than many dare to dream to achieve, the tragedy is all of the untapped potential- all of the work that she will never get to do.
However, she has built something beautiful, something powerful, and something enduring - a community of people engaged in the work of building a true multi-racial democracy - a step towards finding our 3.5%. And while I have no idea how we will go on with out her - how I will go on without her- what I am sure of is that Integrated Schools will continue. This podcast will continue. The chapters around the county and the world will go on, the workbook for integrating parents, the workshops, the Facebook group - it will continue.
And while the thought of never getting “Paulette-Ed” again is a bit more than I can bear, and while the idea of releasing this episode without her signing off on it is terrifying, we will continue. We will keep sharing stories, we will keep finding experts to push our thinking, we will keep trying to know better and do better. Because Courtney wouldn’t have tolerated it any other way.
Thank you listeners- the reach of this podcast brought her joy and pride, and your feedback warmed her heart. If you’d like to share a voice memo of what this podcast or Courtney’s work has meant to you, please send it to hello@integratedschool.ORG - we’ll be using some for a future, hopefully more thoughtful and less tear filled episode in the future, and we’ll be sharing them with her family.
Please stay tuned to this feed and IntegratedSchools.org or integrated schools in social media. We need a bit of time to regroup, but we aren’t going anywhere. Details about services will be shared as soon as they are confirmed.
But for now, I'll leave you with this:
COURTNEY: This work, the work that you and I are doing here, the work that all of the volunteers, that support integrated schools as an organization. The chapter leaders like Darcy and Lisa and Trevor who are working in their cities, even if it's just in small ways, it's ultimately optimistic. It's ultimately hopeful. I actually do believe that we have enough white and or privileged families who are willing to dig in deeply and rewrite who we want to be in America and rewrite that for our children.
ANDREW: It was an honor to be in this with Courtney as we tried to know better and do better. See you next time.