As the school year winds to a close, I’d like to dedicate the next couple of posts to the students and educators who understand that school is a place to grow in wisdom as well as knowledge, in love as well as the so-called Three R’s. They understand that school isn’t just a place to learn how to be in the world, but it’s a place to learn how to change it for the better.
Connor Tinen is one of those students. He’s just finishing his junior year at Eureka High School in Eureka, MO. In a recent letter to his principal, Jim Wipke, he asks for some help in beginning his own Greater Than Yourself endeavor. Jim was kind enough to share this letter with me (with Conner’s permission, of course), and I offered to expand the request beyond the Conner-Wipke connection by sharing this letter with you.
You now have the opportunity to encourage this remarkable young man to grow as a leader and as a human being; you can give him a great gift–the gift of your experience. Here’s what to do:
- Read the letter, and then
- Offer your answers to his questions (in bold) in the comment section.
- Pass this post along to others and ask them to do the same
Can you think of a better way to end the school year?
Dear Dr. Wipke,
My name is Connor Tinen and I am a junior at Eureka High School.
I have been elected Vice President of Eureka’s chapter of NHS (National Honor Society) for the 2011-2012 school year, a position I greatly value and look forward to serving in. As part of our training this year Dr. McIlwee is requiring all officers to read Greater Than Yourself by Steve Farber. After finishing the book I was extremely interested in the philosophy and saw a huge power in it; however, I was unsure how exactly it should manifest itself in my life. So I searched for more resources; listening to an online file about selecting a GTY project, and watching a video about the role Mr. Farber thinks Greater Than Yourself should play in schools.
However, I still am slightly unsure of how this should look due to the inherent differences between the working world and the student world.
My biggest question is what should a GTY project look like for me, a high school student? What shape do you think this relationship should take? This includes, perhaps my biggest question, who I should ask to be my GTY partner, and how precisely I should help them? The question seems like it should have an obvious answer, but I am struggling to pinpoint a worthy and hungry person to be my GTY “recipient.”
…I hope that you might have some answers.
Michelle Kosmicki says
I think students who are maginalized and/or students who are bullies would be candidates for a GTY partnership. In my mind, this seems like a natural partnership.
Hi Connor, First of all, although you didn’t ask for it, I offer you my congratulations for reaching out to another person. When boiled to their essentials, there aren’t many differences between the student and working worlds: change comes down to one person affecting change with one person at a time. The subsequent ripples form of their own accord, based upon witnessing another’s courage in attempting change.
That said, take a moment to reflect on your achievement and natural talents. The most effective change occurs when we give from a position of strength. We cannot give what we do not possess. Once you have a bead on your core ‘offering,’ per se, look to see where lack exists in your immediate environs.
Seek out a student who could benefit from what you can give and then ask his/her permission if you can share your experiences with them. I would ask your counselor/teacher for the best way to approach this student that you pick, but keep in mind that having their buy in from the outset helps both of you to achieve success more quickly.
Again, I’m very proud of you. Good luck! Best, M.
Ron Boschert says
I would like to congratulate you on being elected VP of Eureka High School’s NHS! I can see by your actions (not just words) that you are looking to make a difference and change the world by reaching out to others. You are already exhibiting GTY behavior. I suggest you find someone who inspires you and has the potential for personal growth and would benefit from the energy, passion, and personal attention you could provide to them by taking them on as your GTY project. To me GTY is about believing in someone and believing that you can make a positive difference in their life. The first step in doing this is understanding them and getting them to believe in you. You also asked for input on “How precisely can you help them”. My advice is to understand them, their strengths and dreams, and encourage them to follow them. Write them personal notes, compliment behavior that you think is worth recognizing, spend time with them. You will find this very rewarding and it will come back to you in the form of personal gratification and friendship.
Best of luck and I find your story very inspiring and know that I am a big fan of Greater than Yourself and Steve Farber. I am also a huge fan of Jim Wipke as he is one of my very best friends and I have had the privilege of being Jim’s assistant soccer coach for many years and I can tell you he is a big believer in GTY and lives it everyday as do I. Keep up the great work!
Wow, thanks to everyone for all the great advice, and very, very kind words. As a student thinking about his future it is great to know that there is a growing culture of sacrifice and selflessness in the work world today. After having the opportunity to talk to Mr. Farber and to reflect more on the book, as well as think about the advice offered here, I have continued to grow in my understanding of just how powerful this idea of Greater Than Yourself truly is. It holds such power in that it is, at its most essential level, a way to love others and make a contribution to their life, effectively putting their needs above your own (although of course many benefits are derived in the process, as many have attested to here). To all this is a beautiful concept, but it holds special beauty and power for me personally as I am an active Christian, and this philosophy represents a new way of living out my faith in more professional environments. I look forward to continuing to be able to implement GTY in my life, and to share this powerful idea with others. Thank you all very much for your advice, it will no doubt help me in selecting a GTY project and to incorporate some of the more general ideas of the philosophy into my life and into the organizations of which I am a part. Thank you all so much again for all the kind words and advice, and Mr. Farber, thank you very much for all the support you have given me in my continuing quest for complete understanding of the GTY philosophy.
Connor, I add my congratulations to the others. Not just for the position that you now hold, but for the attitude that you are bringing to it. You are taking the role of leaderhip very seriously, giving the responsibility the consideration it deserves.
That being said, don’t put added presure on yourself by thinking you must find a GTY project here and now and begin right away. I would suggest that you simply stay open to the possibility that somewhere along the way, someone will benefit from your support of their development, and that process will be made better by your direct involvement. Stay aware to the fact that over the next year, you will learn even more about leadership, your network will grow, your school and community knowledge will expand, and you will have even more to offer someone tomorrow than you already do today.
It is possible that the right person is sitting next to you now. It is also possible that the right person hasn’t entered your world, yet. The goal, as I understand it, is not to quickly grab someone and make them better, but instead, to be willing to continue expanding yourself, always learning more to share. Then, when the chance presents itself, willingly give of yourself without expectations and, finally, generously replicate yourself and encourage him or her to do the same. You may develop the one of the next leaders of the NHS, who knows?
Based on my experience, when the right person comes along, you’ll know. If you don’t know today, than maybe today is not the right time. Just continue to stay open to it, continue desiring to invest in someone else’s growth as a leader. Helping another person become even greater than you are is a wonderful opportunity of leadership.
Good luck in your future. Wherever you are, there you will be great, that much I know.
Cyoumans Bhs says
Connor–As a high school educator and former Beta sponsor, I wish you well in your formal leadership position with NHS. More than that, I am proud of you as a high schooler seeking to read and expand your leadership skills by reading Greater than Yourself and working to implement its message. Because of your new role as VP of NHS, it is natural for me to assume that you have experienced academic success. My advice to you would be to consider searching for someone that might not have had access to the things you have. Look for a student who struggles in your classes, one who may not have as much as you, etc. Think of someone with whom you could share your time and talent.