Corazon was her name, and it means “Heart" in Spanish. This third grader was the first child I spent working with one on one, and it changed my entire perspective on what we as business people can accomplish.
My first challenge with her was to find a way to get her to read more. I volunteered with Spread the Word that year because I loved to read, especially as a kid, and felt I could pass on some of that passion to a child in need of it. For a few reasons, Cora had struggled to keep up with the other kids and was well behind the third grade reading level. She didn’t lack for intelligence, she kept me on my toes from day one and could tell I had no idea what I was doing. But after a few weeks, I figured out a few things, such as what books would get her excited enough to read (Boxcar Children did the trick), and how I needed to limit activity to 10-15 minutes to keep her attention. She got better reading to me every week, and in that one hour a week commitment for the school year, I watched her grow from being below average to being ready for fourth grade. It was such an accomplishment for her, and immensely fulfilling for me to help her.
Why did I take all that time to work with her? Because it occurred to me, education and our kids are the number one cause of all our problems. Schools are overwhelmed, and children that fall through the cracks at some point leads to dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, poverty, crime, poor health that reverberates through our community. It also occurred to me that we, as small business owners, have a unique ability to bend our schedules to help them, and provide great perspective.
I became involved with several organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior Achievement (JA), NPHY, and others. JA became the cause of our local chapter of CRS (Council of Residential Specialists), which is a group of top producing REALTORS. Our group of agents adopted H.P. Fitzgerald elementary school in February 2015 and again in November. For an entire school day, the kids got to see what real estate agents are about up close and learn valuable information from us. Many of the kids only knew about doctors, lawyers and athletes as the careers of choice, but with our group, they got to see everyday small business owners and realize their options are limitless. We taught them the JA curriculum on subjects like business, finance, jobs, and even a little macroeconomics (at the elementary level). It was fun, and I enjoyed seeing dozens of colleagues get the same joy and fulfillment of giving their time to a child.
I wanted to take this space to tell this quick story and challenge you to give a little bit of your time to one of our local kids. There are so many ways to do this, and it doesn’t have to be a big commitment. Can you spare an hour a month to read to a child or visit a shelter or coach a team, or be a guest speaker? CCSD now has a program to bring in members of the community directly to the schools to mentor kids at high risk for dropping out of high school. It’s a local pastime to complain about the quality of our schools… take some time and go visit one and offer to help. The schools, non-profits, and the kids need you.