Becoming a “Very Best Thing”

Seedling KidsI read Ken Herman’s column this morning in the Austin American Statesman, and the power of mentoring hit me once more.

You can read it here.

I hope that Mr. Herman’s friend and mentee can work something out and stay in touch, but the reality is, these are kids whose lives are in chaos. Whether the move comes for a better job or cheaper rent for their care-giving parent, they have been passed on to yet another relative, or even if it is due to the vagaries of the foster care system…it really doesn’t matter. It is another uprooting and another chance for abandonment for these children who have a parent in prison.

I started mentoring this year, after nearly a decade of helping provide opportunities for others to mentor and supporting the best site based and research driven program I know of; Seedling Mentor Program.

Why did I wait so long?  

Well, based on my experiences with another mentoring program many years ago, I thought I wasn’t good at it. You see, I had been thrown into an incredibly difficult situation pool with little preparation, training or support, and I drowned. Continue reading

Owning Your Thoughts – Social and Emotional Learning

Seedling Kids My very wise and philosophical friend Hjalmar said he had heard a quote along the way that he wanted to share with me. “You don’t own your first thought…but you do own your second.” He went on to explain that the first thought we have when something happens is often very instinctive. It can be “fight or flight” related and evoke an extremely emotional and reactive response.  

I thought about this and agreed, but added a third part to the quote. I said, “You are right. You don’t own your first thought, but you do own your second, and you definitely own your actions after that!” We both laughed, but it is so true, and it is something important we must teach our children along the way.

Dr. Stephen Covey covered this very well in his writing about proactive behavior. You can read about it at a very accessible level in his son, Sean Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.”

The Coveys captured the principle with, “You cannot control what the world does around you.  You can control how you react to it…and ultimately how you behave.” That is proactive behavior and the earlier your child grasps this, the more advantage he or she will have in the world.

Schools throughout the nation are becoming aware that it is not enough to teach the basics of education to children, particularly if they have been raised in low socio-economic or other difficult circumstances. Many of these children have not been exposed to self-control techniques, just as they have not been exposed to early childhood enrichment activities. Educators are becoming aware that in order to be taught, children need to be rested, healthy, fed, and understand how to control their emotions and behaviors. Continue reading

Drip by Drip, A Future is Built

Rushing Water

Image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff,

My daughter in law school sent me the link to Whitworth University’s commencement address by a young lady named Jena Nardella.  You can see the speech in its entirety here.

Her point is simple, yet poignant. Our lives and journeys are the sum of countless small steps, stops and starts, and to jump past any of those building blocks is to lose a precious experience. She refers eloquently to the “uneven up and down, 3 steps forward 2 steps back nature of both work and life amidst challenging circumstances, broken relationships, and deep-set cultural constraints.”

A good friend of mine, and the founder of the Seedling Foundation, once put it like this. “I am only one person, but I can be a small drip for God and join with others to form a stream and eventually a mighty river.” Even with that imagery in mind, he accepts that each project will be a “brick by brick” (often literally!) proposition and it may take years to truly impact a school community.

Our American culture usually focuses on the end game. We care about the score, the outcome, the end product and the all important results. I have learned the hard way that life,and the children in it don’t work that way.

There are people in the business world who would like it very much if we could somehow quantify success, come up with a process to replicate it again and again, and come out the end with a quality product in education.

That product being, of course, your children.

I have worked in business and I have volunteered in education. I have parented two young people to adulthood. I have observed thousands of families and individuals over the years and the one thing I can tell you with total confidence is this: There is no one way to success. Continue reading

A Promise Kept – Mentoring with Seedling

Seedling KidsI realized I have not written in this blog about something I have been involved with for the past eight years or so, and I am not sure whyI guess because I have written so much about it elsewhere, on the web site, promotional materials, etc., I just thought in the back of my mind that I had covered it…Not so much.

I have been involved with a foundation which started out as an educational foundation for a local high school, expanded its work past that particular school and which became a change agent for an entire district. John Blazier, a local attorney and ardent public education advocate began it and guided it into a family foundation and then with my help, a stand alone non-profit. He became my personal mentor along the way, and I hope to always keep the children first in my mind and heart the way he does.

Seedling Foundation is a group of committed, passionate folks who work together to support public schools in the Greater Austin Area through mentoring children who have a parent in prison (Seedling’s Promise). It touches thousands of young lives each year, and changes some of them forever.

Why children who have a parent in prison?

Continue reading