I just returned from the annual Jack Kent Cooke Foundation conference (the Foundation that awarded me $110,000 to complete my B.A and M.Ed) and am feeling – as I often do – renewed.
Have you ever had a conversation where you felt so good, so connected, so invigorated that you stayed up all night talking, and in the morning you felt ready to conquer the world?
That is what the Jack Kent Cooke conference is like.
|Me, Tatiana, and Daniel (3 of 6 JKC Scholars from the same community college) :)|
There is something truly engaging and inspiring about the “Cinderella story” – I’ll never forget the first time I heard the phrase that I thought was reserved for glass slippers on ESPN. There is something thrilling about seeing an underdog overcome the odds. Become more than societal expectation.
That is what the Jack Kent Cooke Scholars are like.
What is inspiring about being in the presence of these people is that there is something inherently interesting about Cinderellas who believed their lives would be spent cleaning floors only to learn there was much more in store. And these kinds of Cinderellas don’t live high on a tower enjoying their good fortune and success.
They return to their former lives, their former communities, and help others trade aprons for glass slippers.
Community colleges are filled with Cinderella stories; those who see community college for the infinite open door that it is – and not a sign of failure - and rise above unbelievable hardships and circumstances to make more of their dreams.
There are common themes among these stories – lessons and insights that shape me every time I meet again with this group of Jack Kent Cookerellas. And I want to share them with you. Because the biggest secret of all is: you don’t need a huge scholarship or a fairy godmother to rise above.
Ask any Jack Kent Cooke scholar and they’ll tell you while (of course) the amount of money was truly life changing, the biggest impact the Foundation has had on their lives is the empowerment we all felt the moment someone told us we were a Jack Kent Cooke scholar.
It was the moment someone told us that they believed our lives and our dreams were worthwhile.
The moment we felt we could go farther than we (or anyone else) ever thought possible.
The moment a large weight of self-doubt most of us didn’t even know we carried was lifted from our shoulders and suddenly we were standing up straighter.
The moment we felt like we mattered.
So I’m here to tell you today that you matter. I wish I could give you the $110,000 to prove it. But it’s not all about the money. Money alone will never get us there. It is the passion. The investment of money into someone who knows who they are and what they want to achieve. If you become that person, the resources you need will come. I promise.
To get started, below are the 3 key elements you need to move towards your goals that I have learned over the years from staying up way too late talking to Jack Kent Cooke Scholars:
1.Believe in your whole story
In order to truly believe in yourself I think you have to believe and value your entire story. Something powerful happens when you dig deep into your past, present, and honestly decide how that impacts your future.
Own the pain, the heartache, the trials, and remind yourself that is what makes a Cinderella story so interesting. You have a story to tell, and what you’ve overcome should be worn as a badge of honor that drives you forward. And once you proudly own your story – tell it often. Because in our world people are too quiet about their pain, which often causes so many to feel like they are completely alone.
Question 2 ask: What are the defining moments in your life that make you who you are today?
2.Discover your passion(s)
Often when you truly think about your story passions will emerge from your experiences. Hold tight to all of your passions and interests and don’t let the world taint them or let that voice in your head tell you that your interests are not worthwhile. You will achieve so much more if you go in a direction that invigorates you than if you force yourself down any other path that is not your own.
Action 2 take: write down everything you’re interested in/passionate about without thinking. Just write without judgment, and see what you come up with. (and if you’re just not sure what you’re passionate about yet, start discovering by reading, trying out new classes, volunteering, joining clubs, and keep your mind open to what heightens your senses, your creativity, and your energy).
3.Match your story & your passion with your top skills
What do people compliment you on? What classes have you always naturally excelled at? What kinds of tasks do you love to do? If you don’t know, go to your career center ASAP and take all of their career and skills tests. Analyze yourself in clubs and jobs and try to figure out what you’re really good at.
Really think about what people compliment you on. Where do you receive the best feedback?
Once you figure that out, the key is matching those skills with your passions and your story/confidence. Once you do that, your life will make a difference in the world beyond your wildest imagination.
Think Big. Dream Big. Jack Kent Cooke.