Empower vs. Aspire – Finding our “WHY”

by Sophie Barreto

Staff Writer


Hopefully, the coffee you drink (or rely on, perhaps) has given you the energy to at least attempt to pay attention to the announcements in the morning. If you are one out of these lucky students, you may have noticed a change in Mr. Podraza’s routine for prefacing the learning day. No longer does the word ‘aspire’ roll off of his tongue with ease. No longer can we look forward to the creative ways our principal would weave this acronym into his early morning speech. And personally, it’s been getting to me a little bit. I may or may not have cried for a few hours over this alteration to my inspiration for the day. Hey, humans naturally dislike change, right?

Now, freshmen, let me fill you in. Although the catchy and uplifting phrases changed in the slightest from day to day, some of the ones EGHS came to know and love were,

“Let’s aspire to be kind in all we do today’

Of course, at some point we must save the nostalgia and tears for our pillows, for a new acronym has come to replace the one EGHS has known for 8 years (that’s right, 8 WHOLE YEARS). If you happened to have missed the announcements every day along with the posters practically smothering the campus, the new acronym for our mission statement is ‘EMPOWER.’


We, the EGHS community, strive to empower all members to achieve their full potential as learners, thinkers, and responsible global citizens.  We are devoted to taking risks in order to inspire learning and discover passions.


East Greenwich High School exists to empower.

We Engage

We Motivate

We Personalize

We Open doors

We Wonder

We Evolve

We Reflect


There have been mixed opinions from the staff and students about this switch, but some of the teachers have certainly displayed their enthusiasm for the new mission statement. When a student failed to open the door in the hallway (completely understandable seeing as how heavy they are on exhausted adolescent muscles), Mr. Carniaux proceeded to exclaim, “Excuse me, we open doors here at EGHS. It’s even written in the mission statement.”

Nevertheless, no matter how the words of the acronym are interpreted, you’re probably wondering the same thing that I was. Who even cares about one little word anyway? Mr Podraza explained exactly how the change arose and why 7 letters hold so much power. First of all, it is important to realize just how important the word ‘ASPIRE’ was to EGHS for the 8 years that it held its own.


The EGHS community is committed to providing a rigorous curriculum driven by high academic standards, cultivating personal excellence and integrity, and encouraging civic responsibility in all students within a safe, supportive environment.


Academic Success

Supportive Environment

Personal Responsibility





Mr. Podraza’s personal definition of this word is “to strive to attain.” He made a point of constantly enforcing the importance of setting goals and stopping at nothing to achieve them. Not only has the environment of our school carried it to have the great reputation it has, but the work ethic of the the people within this building throughout the years have brought it much success. Much of this is exactly what the acronym “aspire” is going for. Mr. Podraza stated that the significance of having a mission statement is that is embodies “where all decision making should stem from.” He stressed the importance of having a set of concise ideas to build the workings of the school around. So, now the big question.

If ‘aspire’ did its job so well, why alter it?

The idea was aroused when a subcommittee from the school improvement team took the time to assess the previous mission statement. The thought that a new one was needed was inspired by a Ted Talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek. In this speech, Sinek discusses the idea that organizations focus on three different categories of evaluation, set up as three rings of a circle. The outer ring is ‘what,’ the middle ring is ‘how,’ and the innermost ring is ‘why.’ The main point that Sinek stresses is that successful organizations “work from the inside out,” and base their decisions on the reason why they do what they do. He repeats multiple times the phrase, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Consequently, the school improvement team had to ask themselves: what is EGHS’ ‘WHY’? Mr. Podraza’s personal definition of empower is “to give power to.” This differs from aspire in the sense that no longer are we only striving to reach our goals, we are applying a series of concepts-as outlined in the acronym-in order to fulfill our potential. Thus, the ‘Why?’ of East Greenwich High School can be answered simply with “to empower.”

I remember when my brother was in his first year of high school at EGHS, although it now feels like forever ago. The intimidation and pure awe I felt as I stepped into the building for one of the first times in my life, still in my elementary school years, was overwhelming. As my eyes looked up, the monstrous poster hanging from the beams of the ceiling gaped over me. Giant letters spelled out ASPIRE. I tried to read all of the letters that were printed, but I’m sure I couldn’t comprehend most of the words fully. I do know for certain that seeing that word (even with my lack of knowledge) I could tell that this school was NOT messing around. The mission statement just displayed the drive that I could only assume every member of that school possessed. Immense pride filled my little body just knowing that I would get to participate in something so marvelous one day.

To me, ‘EMPOWER’ is just a step further in what seems to be all we can know as the right direction. East Greenwich High School has created a long history of success in the past and will only continue the streak of greatness in the future. However, if it is in your interest to seize the opportunity in front of you, you must ask yourself:

Will you be part of our ‘WHY’?

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