This past week, I had the privilege of working with two great national organizations.
I participated in a three-day “think tank” with the national FFA, in Indianapolis. Our goal was to think strategically about what student leaders and staff needed to know and do to become effective leaders.
Then I flew to Omaha, Nebraska for the weekend, to speak at the Central Region event for DECA. I spent Saturday with faculty talking about how to connect with students and provide what the need to be healthy leaders as adults.
In both cases, I met key adult leaders who were intensely passionate about doing what must be done to equip kids to be ready for life. I realize this sounds cliché, but I love it when I meet teachers and administrators who haven’t forgotten why they got into this “gig” in the first place.
I observed first-hand the value of technical education; preparing young people for the future with practical, vocational skills they’ll use once they graduate, not merely math and reading which is how we currently measure success. I’m more convinced than ever that the more important ambition of a teacher should be to prepare students for career and life, and worry less about GPA or even what prep school they attended. The new scorecard for faculty and schools is: College and Career Readiness.
Here’s the problem with this. Most people don’t see the value of equipping students with life skills. Most youth pastors don’t get it—I love it when I meet one who invests times mentoring students both spiritually and with skills that add value to organizations. Many educators don’t see it—they continue to use the same scorecard to simply produce better test scores not better adults in the end.
Two Ways to Do It…
The fact is, there are two ways to invest our lives when it comes to youth:
Intervention and Prevention
Most people would rather get involved in intervention. We hear a tragic story about kids failing or getting hurt, or getting involved in criminal lifestyles and we react. In fact, we often do so in a knee-jerk fashion out of emotion. Understandably, many run to react to the millions of troubled kids who are failing to graduate from high school. (Depending on your state, the number lies between 30-40% of teens).
This makes sense. But, I think prevention is better. What if we created initiatives that kept these kids in school by incentivizing them with job skills? What if we developed emotional intelligence in them, which makes them more valuable to workplaces and families? What if we actually built future leaders who discover the cure for AIDS or cancer?
I have said for years, “It is better to build a fence at the top of the cliff than a hospital at the bottom.” Unfortunately, most would rather give a million dollars for a hospital than a thousand dollars for a fence. It’s more dramatic and measurable. I can see it.
Giving time, energy and money to prevent a child from needing intervention is far less expensive, and far more effective. At Growing Leaders, our team is committed to providing tools that enable teachers, employers, parents, youth workers and coaches can use to build healthy, effective, life-giving leaders. By doing so, they likely WILL graduate; they likely will find a career that fits and a life that’s valuable.
Will you join me in our plight?