Building Ambition from the Ground Up

Lawline Staff | February 16, 2012

I wanted to throw in my own two cents about last Friday's Youth Development Program with Big Brothers Big Sisters, which saw volunteers from visit a local high school to discuss the work that we do, the value of committing oneself to learning, and how to go about developing oneself professionally.

I approached the event with some hesitation, not doubting that the kids would find useful the information I had to share, but anticipating challenges inherent in the fact that I'd be addressing them from what would often be a very different economic bracket. It seemed likely that the children would assume that my experiences weren't relevant to them, or would push back against what might seem a condescending effort to "bestow knowledge from on high." While that was somewhat apparent in a number of interactions, I was impressed by how many kids were genuinely interested in the work I did, asking questions such as "What do you like most about your job?" and, "What do you find most difficult?"

The best part of the program for me was the degree to which nearly every student had either something in their lives about which they were passionate or a goal to work toward. I at times had to coax it out of them, asking such questions as. "You don't know what you're going to be? Okay, well, do you have any hobbies? Could you see those hobbies growing into something career-oriented?" In the end, however, there was always something there: "I want to be a molecular biologist. I want to be musician. I want to be a fashion coach."

I made a point to ask questions as often as possible. Rather than functioning as a talking head, bombarding them with info, I asked them what they liked about school, what they didn't like, what they wished they could change, what subjects they most enjoyed learning. The moment a given kid started to lose focus, I'd hit him or her up with a question. In the long run, this may have prevented me from dispensing as much info as I might have otherwise, but for me it was a worthwhile sacrifice, as everyone was listening as a result, and grabbing whatever info they could.

As expected, the most pronounced lesson I learned from the kids was how important it is to keep pushing forward in spite of personal difficulty, which in their case was often enormous.

I was also reminded of how fortunate I am to doing precisely what I love. For many of these students, the obstacles between themselves and their dream occupations seemed insurmountable, much as mine once did. That I can now work in video production, after pursuing a major that I was repeatedly told would take years and years to be lucrative, is quite a moving detail. I feel certain these students can realize the same!

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