WHY DID I WRITE THIS BOOK?
I volunteered at a city high school last year to teach a class designed to motivate kids to go to college. My class was mostly kids with darker skin than mine, so I wasn’t sure how they would relate to a fat old white man from the suburbs!
The first day the volunteer coordinators suggested we have the kids ask questions of us to learn who we were and what we do. That worked fairly well, but the kids weren’t really in to it until their questions prompted me to tell my life story. Then they sat up and paid attention as I told them about my start in life, the obstacles I had to conquer and my success as well. I became human to them and they could tell I really wasn’t much different from them.
I didn’t finish my story but several weeks later I threw out a question asking, what should we talk about today? One of them shouted out, finish your story! So I did and once again got their attention. Those two class sessions were the best I had with the kids; the others left them bored and uninterested. So much so that many of the kids started skipping the class; not just the one I taught, the other instructors had the same problem.
I concluded that many of these kids were sick of being told that they need to go to college. The ones with plans to do so were already on board; the ones drifting didn’t seem motivated to look in to all the help that is available at schools for getting in to college. Looking back to their reaction of hearing my story, I figured that if they heard other people’s stories that they may get a better view of the value of education as well as the value of becoming an achiever in life, not just a bystander. I think we need to give them a better answer to why they should become achievers and the benefits of doing so.
I believe the best way to answer that is to let them peek into other people’s lives to find out how and why they succeeded and where they are now.
I also believe that they need to hear stories of ordinary people, like me, not the rich and famous that we hear about all the time. I collected a diverse group by race, religion, gender and education background who have succeeded in their endeavors and life in general. I have about 30 stories of wonderful people who shared some personal problems and how they overcame them. How they started in their line of work and how they progressed in it. What their values are and how those values impact their lives in all they do. I believe that any reader will identify with some or many of these stories and will realize that “if they can do that so can I!” Every kid should find someone in the book that has similar backgrounds, and similar problems starting out. I am deeply grateful for all the people who shared their stories and took their precious time so they could help other people “figure it out”!
There are many public discussions about poverty and the working poor that get my attention. What can I do about it? In my own little way, this is my effort to help.
My goal is to use these stories when I talk with students, and encourage anyone who buys the book to do the same when the opportunities arise. I also hope to get it into the hands of teachers for classes on careers and life planning.