Steve Jobs said, “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” I’ve had my share of crazy this week. I was one of the crazy ones. The ones who actually went to school when many decided to stay at home. The ones who woke up earlier than we do on a normal school day in order to help prepare for the events of the day ahead. The ones who chose to make a difference.
I’m happy with the crazy. I’ve heard of very few schools who give their students an opportunity like this – an opportunity to take two days and completely dedicate them to following your passion. Administration gave us the chance to do something different and make an impact on the world around us, and I got to watch as group after group of my peers embraced the crazy and made a difference.
Going into this, nobody knew what to expect. It seemed as though people thought that, seeing as we’d already been through it before, the upperclassmen knew what was going to happen. This was, in fact, quite wrong. Yes, we had an idea of what a heartbreak map was and we knew that we would all go to the gym and listen to speakers and talk to mentors from the community, but we didn’t know where the journey would take us throughout the course of the two days. That was entirely up to the individual and whatever it was that broke his or her heart.
So we had the underclassmen going in nervous and slightly confused, while the upperclassmen were going in with somewhat of an idea but nevertheless, also slightly confused. However, as Day 1 got going, people began to see their goals materialize. Some groups found their niche right away, working on forming organizations with a clear purpose. Lauren Lake’s group, “Rooms without Walls” took off quickly, focusing on building a mentorship program for children in hospitals. Lauren explained their group’s mission in front of the school at the end of the day, discussing her own experience with cancer and how that inspired her to take action.
Kat McLaughlin and Raven Leshin Szewczok also found their focus quickly, concentrating their efforts on creating an inclusive Sex-Ed Curriculum. Kat voiced her opinions on Tuesday stating, “It’s very important for us to create an environment where everybody, especially the LGBQT+ community, feels accepted.”
Other groups took a while to determine what it was they wanted to direct their attention towards. My group was one of those. After a day of floating from group to group, hearing brilliant ideas and helping our peers find their direction, Kip Hallagan and I sat down with Mr. Downey to brainstorm ways in which we could help children with disabilities at Meeting Street School. What resulted was an organization called “Crossing the Street” and a goal to help establish a relationship between Meeting Street and other communities throughout the state, beginning with (but certainly not ending with) EGHS. We encourage you to join us.
These past two days, I watched everyone in this school pull together, but what especially stood out to me was the group of my classmates organizing everything behind the scenes. This was the star squad of black shirts and white shirts who came to school on a Sunday, came early every day and stayed late every day, preparing for what was to come. Yes, Angela Maiers and her team, Mr. Podraza, Mr. Chace, and Mrs. Page all clearly had a large role in organizing the event, but I admire this team of students who voiced their opinions and really helped to shape the way the event would run. These students were adapting plans and solving problems to ensure that everyone involved got the most out of Choose To Matter that they could get. During these meetings, our students led the discussions and proposed new ideas, many of which were implemented into the plan.
Throughout “Choose To Matter,” I found myself inspired. Inspired by the leaders emerging through this experience. Inspired by the great things these groups were setting out to do. Inspired by the faculty and staff who were just as invested in these issues as the students. And inspired by the way I saw people striving to make a change. I stood at the podium during the closing assembly, looking out at an auditorium of people who care, each person just as impassioned about their work as I am about mine. Steve Jobs would’ve looked at what we did and called us the crazy ones and I’ll take that kind of crazy any day – because it means we are making a difference.