I Believe in You

All we can ask in our lives is that perhaps we can make a little difference in someone else’s.” –Lillian Davis

While working on this post a couple nights go, I pulled out a few quote books. In case you haven’t noticed, I like to include quotes at the beginning of every new post. In fact, I like to include quotes everywhere. My house is filled with these little nuggets of wisdom, and, shake your head if you want, they really do bring me daily inspiration. That’s all I needed for this post: the perfect quote to cap of a post that capped off a week of being inspired, excited, and optimistic about the impact I was making.

The first page of the first book evoked a huge sigh.
Someone saw something in you once…. Whoever it was had the wisdom and foresight to see your potential, to bet on your future, to catch hold of your dreams.” 
I have the words memorized now; for one, because they’re paraphrased in my memoir and I had to make sure I included the exact quote. Also, because of the hope they’d given me as a young teenager, that they might be able to inspire someone else.
They didn’t.

Well, maybe they did at some point; to be fair, I’ve never really had too deep of a conversation with my childhood idol about what she thought of the book I gave her, entitled I Believe in You. I only know that combined with a long and detailed and over-the-top letter which was also meant to inspire, my efforts pushed away a person I admired more than anyone else at the time.
It’s an experience that’s in the past now; one I’ve written about but moved on from, and one I’ve of course learned so many lessons from. To that end, the sigh evoked upon reading that first page reminded me of one of the most important lessons in my memoir: Don’t stop trying.
I could’ve easily walked away from that experience thinking I should never reach out like that to someone again; that it wasn’t worth the risk, or that it wouldn’t help at all. If I had done that, then I’d have never known all the ways I could have an impact. If you reach out to someone and you get pushed away, reach out to someone else. If that doesn’t work — if that next person pushes you away too? Try to inspire someone else. If it doesn’t work with the next person? You get the picture. Someone out there needs you to keep trying. Someday, you’re going to make a difference for a person who needs you. On that note…
You may have seen a recent post announcing my decision to donate the proceeds from And Then it Rained: Lessons for Life  to the National College Advising Corps. In light of the formal press release this week, I wanted to share a few thoughts about why I believe this is such a great home for them. There are certainly other organizations trying to help kids get to and be successful in college, but the National College Advising Corps is doing so in a few ways that make them the perfect fit for my mission.

1) The connection to my Dream School: Though this is a national, and (RAPIDLY) growing organization, they are currently housed under a school that happens to be very special to me: my “Dream School,” the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (That’s right, for those of you who have ever wondered about the name Sky Blue Mission, it’s not just derived from a relation to my memoir’s title.; it’s also about school colors).

Had someone told me there was an organization out there helping kids get to college, I would’ve without a doubt been interested; yet the reason I perked up at the news story on my TV two years ago was because, as the announcer said, “this is an organization in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.” Just as it nurtured my dreams, UNC has nurtured the dreams of the National College Advising Corps, and in turn, allowed them to nurture the dreams of so many others. No matter how big this organization gets or where they go (and I hope they keep growing and growing), they will always have roots in the same place I do.

2) The connection to what I experienced at my Dream School: Last week, I participated in a gathering of the eighteen National College Advising Corps’ chapters from around the country. Per tradition, Founder and Executive Director Dr. Nicole Hurd had the group of advisers say “hello” to each guest speaker chapter by chapter; or, more specifically, school by school (each adviser is a graduate of the college chapter they are affiliated with). As a result, the round-robin went a little something like this:

Dr. Hurd: “Michigan State, please say hello.”

Michigan State table: “GO GREEN! GO WHITE!”

Dr. Hurd: “Missouri.”

Missouri Table: “M-I-Z! Z-O-U!”

Dr. Hurd: “Carolina.”

Carolina table: “TAR… HEELS… TAR… HEELS.”

As I looked around the room and listened to the “greetings,” all I could think is that these kids are not only helping other kids get to college, but they’re displaying what is so great about going to college — the ties and connections formed from four years inside those distinct campus walls. I mentioned above that this is an organization whose reach is expanding rapidly, yet I hope that every year when they convene, no matter how many schools are represented, each will introduce themselves individually. Sure 50+ different cheers and/or fight songs may take over an hour to get through, but it only shows just how many diverse and unique opportunities are out there for the students each of these advisers serve.

3) The connection of what the advisers are doing to how I got to my Dream School: For those who’ve read my book or its plot synopsis, you know that the inspiration to go to my dream school came from seeing my childhood idol not go to hers. It’s an ironic twist related to the kids that the National College Advising Corps advisers serve, since my childhood idol didn’t exactly fit the bill of those students: she came from a close, financially secure family, and her brother and dad both went to college. Yet that twist is 100% related.

For me, a kid who faced obstacles in all of those areas – family circumstances, financial status, being first generation – I learned from my experience with my idol that there is only one obstacle in going to your dream college that is truly insurmountable: the belief that you can’t get there. And that’s what these advisers are working to change with their students. This isn’t a program that hands out scholarship award money based on need or other merit-based criteria. This is a program that sends students similar in age and background into schools to work with kids and say “You can do it. You can get there.” The college applications they help students complete, the campus visits they take students on, the financial aid they help secure; all are just a small component of a much bigger message: “I Believe in You.”


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