For six years, the St. Louis Rams have hosted United Way’s community campaign kickoff event. What makes this event special is that it is the only time during the season outside of game day that head coach Jeff Fisher assembles and deploys the entire roster. This year we decided to invite area high school football players to sit at each table alongside the professionals that many of them idolize. I believe that exposure to someone who is doing or has done what you aspire to do can be a game changer. It doesn’t matter that, of the millions of students participating at the high school level, only a fraction will play in college, and an even smaller subset will play professionally. Exposure sparks a glimmer of imagination about what is possible.
As I made my way around the room greeting these young men (who were also seated next to some of our top corporate partners like MasterCard, Edward Jones and The Laclede Group), I asked the same standard questions, “What school do you attend?”, “What year are you?”, and “What are you doing next?” All said what they believed was expected: “I am going to college.” Some had already been accepted into a university. One of the young men I met was from Roosevelt High School in the City of St. Louis; he is a senior and aspires to attend college but hadn’t applied yet. When asked why, he said, “I didn’t do well on the ACT.” Without knowing his exact score, I proceeded to ask why that was preventing him from applying, quipping, “I scored a 15 on the ACT, and I am living the dream.” He looked dumbfounded by my admission, but it seemed to liberate him to share his score. He, too, scored a 15. I encouraged him to press forward.
I am fortunate that, in spite of the 15, I made it. I’m at a point in life where I can put that 15 into context and allow myself to be vulnerable and talk publicly about it in order to encourage others. I believe that exposure to people who are authentic in their words and deeds can help us see what is possible and elevate us to the next level of our development. What do you think? Who are you elevating by sharing your story, warts and all?
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