I could start this blog by telling the story of how my opportunity to interact with Stedman Graham on a monthly basis arose unexpectedly at a wedding reception. Or I could start by telling you why a group of students in Oceanside, California, consistently impress me and give me hope for the future of humanity. Or I could start off with the heart of the matter– the need for young people to find purpose.
I was once a seventh grader who, instead of finding purpose, declared myself worthless. Every day, I felt like a failure. After all, I had a speech impediment, was painfully slow at writing longhand and was abysmal at sports. All this courtesy of cerebral palsy and an abiding lack of confidence. I hungered after the perfection I saw in all the kids and adults around me. So I became the biggest bully I ever knew and directed all that bullying at….myself…culminating in a suicide attempt at the end of my seventh grade year. Luckily, I called for help.
Some youth mercilessly bully themselves like I did. Other young people soothe the pain of not knowing their purpose by finding relief in drugs or alcohol. Some bully those around them because they feel so much pain. Unfortunately, we need only look at the news to see how the pain of having little or no internal purpose can have catastrophic consequences.
Today, with the very same voice that propelled me to consider ending my life thirty years ago, I’ve become a bravery coach and speak on stages around the country inspiring people not to give up even though they make mistakes. I advocate for them to keep moving forward and to do their imperfect best.
I strongly believe that a person can move from the profound pain of hopelessness to a life full of purpose.
There is hope.
That is the message I receive loud and clear when I go to the monthly meeting of The Community Alliance For Youth Success (CAYS), a gathering of young people and adults devoted to the common purpose of mobilizing schools, local businesses, local non-profits, families and individuals to create an environment which encourages high school students to discover their purpose.
I’m a newcomer. CAYS, a group comprised entirely of volunteers, creates Youth Success Week–a week during which students have a chance to explore and celebrate their successes and think about their purpose. It is impressive that American educators Stedman Graham and Bobbi DePorter, noted business speaker Steve Farber and many other highly successful people attend to these meetings year after year.
However, the most exciting thing about CAYS meetings is the students who come from the Oceanside high schools. They are devoting their free time to getting Youth Success Clubs going at their schools. Instead of wallowing in the turmoil that can naturally come with being a high school student, they are internalizing the message and choosing to become the next generation of leaders. By devoting their free time to getting Youth Success Week Clubs established at their schools, they are trail blazers starting a movement that is rippling out into their communities. These young people are living lives full of purpose.
The vision of CAYS is that communities around the world help youth discover their purpose by adopting the Youth Success Week model. Imagine a world where young people with low self-esteem have the tools to lead themselves and others from lives of profound hopelessness to lives of purpose.
This is a world I’m glad to be a part of and glad to lend my imperfect best vision to.
This year the big Youth Success Week celebration will be at Oceanside High School Performing Art Center on April 28. The event will showcase student accomplishments and connect students with mentors in the business community. There is also a Youth Success Week program that is thriving in Chicago.
For more info, click HERE.