Doing it for the kids
It was like the first day of high school all over again. I was sitting in the parking lot with knots in my stomach. Will they like me? Am I dressed appropriately? Am I prepared? I gathered my things and walked in. I made my way to the office and said, "Hi, my name is Travis and I'm here for the college preparation event". The lady at the front desk hesitated for a second and said, "I'm sorry, but you are at the wrong building". Arriving 15 minutes early and sitting in the parking lot for so long had turned against me. I now needed to make it across town as quickly as possible.
I finally arrive at the International Technology Academy in Pontiac, Michigan. At this point there is no time to be nervous. I grab my things and quickly walk in. I'm assigned a desk and the interviews begin!
I have the opportunity to interview eight students before the session ends. We cover typical questions, along with some general points about each student’s future and what they think might be a good career for them. It’s refreshing to listen to young people expressing their ideas and what they want to accomplish. Being able to provide guidance (whether they were listening or not) was really rewarding.
After the interviews wrap up, we break into smaller groups and focus on practical tasks, like helping the students apply for colleges, find scholarship opportunities and obtain tuition support. The school program sets a goal for each student to apply for at least five colleges. Most of these kids don't have easy access to the internet outside of school, so just showing them how to refine a Google search or where to look on a college website is very valuable in helping them find support. Some of the students just need to be motivated to take the next step.
An Olympic struggle
Following the sessions with the students was a motivational speech from Olympic athlete Hayes Jones. Hayes was born in Pontiac and won the 110m hurdles at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He shared his touching memories about his struggles and journey to the Games. The moral of his story? Never give up. You see, Hayes was the favorite to win gold at the Rome Olympics four years earlier. There was a lot of pressure on him to win and it started to mess with his head. He started to think that if he was supposed to win, then he would. Hayes came in third. Many had thought that he had peaked and that this would be his last Olympic games.
Hayes did not take that for an answer. He trained harder than ever before. He didn't listen to any reporters or analysts. He was going to make sure that whether he won or lost, it would be on his terms. By the time the Tokyo games arrived, Hayes was ready – there was nothing holding him back. When he crossed the finish line, there was nobody in front of him – Hayes won gold.
By overcoming his own shortfalls and staying focused on what he wanted rather than what other people wanted for him, Hayes was able to achieve the goals he set for himself.
Wrapping up the event was another motivational speech and group breakout session directed by Michael Nappere, from a program called Reaching Higher – which focuses on helping students achieve their potential by partnering with schools to deliver life skills. This session was filled with positive stories and activities to help the students overcome their personal barriers. I was able to spend some time with a group of students talking about their daily challenges and helping them work through possible solutions. It really put things into perspective for me after hearing some of the issues these students have to deal with on a daily basis. I was genuinely touched.
Something Reaching Higher also challenges the students to do is "break the rope", meaning they’re encouraged to make a change in their daily lives and see the difference it can make. Something as simple as brushing your teeth with your other hand or taking a different way home from school – small things that keep your mind fresh and help you stay focused.
What I took away from this experience was invaluable. Being able to tap into the minds of the next generation was amazing. And having the opportunity to help shape a young person’s future – even just a small piece of it –was truly rewarding. I can only hope the students took away as much as I did.
Hear more from Sheri about Frameworker days.
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