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Bright Futures Start with Being a Champion for Others’ Success

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We have all heard the term “kids today.” It is usually followed up by a statement like: “they sure have it easy,” or “they just don’t have the work ethic of our generation.” What we must remember is that kids are just a reflection of us in the mirror of life. As adult mentors we must hold high expectations for student success and students must have hope and be academically and financially prepared beginning at an early age.

This philosophy was the premise for creating our GET Bright Futures program in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State. This program plants the seeds of hope in youth and provides an avenue for the champions (parents, teachers, coaches, friends, other relatives) in their lives to respond and support their dreams and aspirations. Only a holistic approach to creating a college-going culture will increase the number of students achieving certification or a degree beyond high school.

This past week I traveled the I-5 corridor from Olympia to Bellingham visiting more than a dozen Boys & Girls Clubs during spring break in order to share our GET Bright Futures Program with more than 500 kindergarten through third grade students. During our presentations with the kids at the Clubs we asked them a few basic questions and then facilitated a rich conversation. Our questions included: “What’s a goal and how do you accomplish your dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up and why?” And lastly we asked “who are the champions in your life and how can these people help you achieve your goals and support you when you face challenges or opportunities?”

It makes me wonder, as adults, do we ask these questions of ourselves enough and do we look for ways to support the people in our lives to the best of our abilities? The way I see it, kids have not changed over time. They are still innocent, curious, and creative sponges that just want to be happy, loved and to know they are working towards something meaningful in their lives. These are the same things we continue to search for as grownups; however, too often we let our egos, gadgets, and bitterness get in the way. What I learned from my week with these amazing kids is don’t let the world stop you from being your best.

We must remember we are born into this world with no preconceived ideas; everything that makes us who we are is truly a result of the people and the environments which surround us. The world is changed when we choose positive behaviors and thoughts and when we decide to be champions for those we love and care about. Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for the person we become.

When talking about his “Moral Bucket List” in a recent editorial in the New York Times, David Brooks said, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones and I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.”

In my opinion, Mr. Brooks hit the nail on the head with this statement because as I went from one Boys & Girls Club to the next I saw the same genuine light, optimism, and hope in the eyes of the children we met with that I had at such a young age. It was the champions in my life, the people focused on their eulogy virtues, that made the most impact on my upbringing and my path to and now through adulthood. If I can be that champion for family, friends and colleagues in my life, I will consider my journey a success.

When we asked one kindergartner to describe college he said it was “an opportunity to become your best self!” And when I asked a second grader what a path is she said, “It is just your journey through life and that it has ups, it has downs and it has lots of turns. It really is not about getting someplace, it is just about becoming a better person by never giving up and remembering the people you love and how they have helped you along the way.” Amazing insight from two kids I now consider champions in my life!

By Ryan Betz, Associate Director of GET Marketing & Communications

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