“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
I must do it myself, but I can’t do it alone”
These quotes came together in November of 2016 when we voted in a new President who wanted to shake things up. The two local Democratic committees, Kennett and Ox Grove, wanted to respond by recognizing the young people who were the change in our future.
They came up with the “Be the Change Award” of $1,000 to the graduating senior from each of the local high schools (Unionville, Kennett and Avon Grove) whose lives had made a difference in their community. As Emily’s List says; “Early Money is Like Yeast.” The award made a very impertinent request: provide an essay of how you have been the change that you want to see in the world. The answers were very pertinent.
The essays from the 12 winners were often profound.Avon Grove really embraced the award with over 30 students participating in the first year. Two of the winners from Avon Grove were a woman who helped start up and lead the Black Student Union and a Mexican American who made a movie about the Guatemalan student immigrants trying to be accepted in this new world.
I was fortunate to present the Unionville “Be the Change” award to Emily Foote this year at their awards ceremony. Ms. Foote has been an agent of change since middle school when she found the girls team playing soccer on top of the baseball diamond and the boys were playing on a proper “football pitch”. That did not last long as she continued to be the change all through school. She is fortunate to has a twin sister and the two of them are off to Vassar, where she is to study Environmental Science and her sister Allie to learn how to make sick people well.
An article in the Pittsburgh Business Times compared how well schools did on standardized tests and came up with Unionville as the school district of the decade.So how do they use reward and recognition? I sat down with Dr. John Sanville, Unionville’s Superintendent to find out.
John says they have gotten away from class ranking, as there is so much more that goes into a well-rounded student than GPA or SAT scores. They do have the Principal’s award for the best student, but their focus is recognizing excellence in even the little things. That includes picking up paper on the grounds of the school.
This wisdom reminded me of a conversation I had years ago when DuPont was trying to catch up with the Japanese in manufacturing competency. I was talking to the plant manager of our paint plant in Ohio that sourced Honda and said I was frustrated that in the West we really only celebrate home runs, but the Japanese celebrate singles. And he looked at me and said with great seriousness; “Bob, Honda celebrates push-ups.”
So, the next time someone starts bad mouthing participation trophies, tell them it was participation trophies in elementary school Lacrosse that led to Kennett playing in the State Championship in 2021.
The student counselor, Jennifer Lubins, at Avon Grove HS introduced me to two students who have made an amazing contribution to their school. When it comes to helping students become the best version of themselves, it is the school counselors that carry much of the weight.
Sophia Crossan and Max Haas are two graduating seniors, she off to Villanova and he to Flight School in Florida. Sophia is one of those people who is blessed and cursed with the ability to feel other people’s pain. She wanted to do something about it, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then, comes her friend Max, a young John McCain.
Together, they were able to find a national organization with 100 chapters called Our Minds Matter. By bringing this on campus and forming a club, Avon Grove Minds Matter, Sophia and Max have created a safety net for students that will help them through tough times. The advisors of the club are Elaine Markowitz (school counselor) and AnnaMarie Bahis (School Nurse).
During the pandemic they collected cards and letters to support the frontline workers at Jennersville Hospital. They also provided the Avon Grove students with a card that told them what to do if they became depressed and anxious. In their first year, the club was awarded the “Above and Beyond” recognition by the national organization for their work around mental health.
One of the first awards of the Kennett Education Foundation was the Scott Thompson award that recognized a student that looked out for others. It has been given out for almost 20 years, this last year going to Brennen Kohl who made a big difference in one student’s life and worked with middle-school kids in After-the-Bell with his Mom.
All three of the schools have programs to address mental health issues and they are supported by the students. If you see something say something.