This morning I spoke to five classes at Mendoza Elementary School.
This is my 12th year Career Day as the school’s sponsor.
This is always one of my favorite days as I try to motivate the third through fifth graders and try to get them to dream big.
I always begin by having the students fill out a worksheet where I ask them to pick from a list of possible dream careers, including doctor, business man/woman, artist, inventor, teacher, athlete — and yes, lawyer. Of course, most haven’t begun to think about this critical decision, so we talked about different careers and what they do.
I told the kids that they will need to make good grades in all of their academic subjects. I had their teacher confirm that on any given day, he or she might need to know a history fact or how to solve a math problem.
I also made the children promise that they will graduate from high school (there is a high drop out rate) and study hard.
I then had the children promise they will all attend and graduate from a university.
Heady stuff. These were life-changing pledges.
We talked about where they could go (many wanted to go to TCU up the street but several called out Harvard) and that there is a lot of scholarship money to those with the best grades. I donate a number of scholarships each year to these students.
I showed them my college diploma (which always excites them) and told them they could have one if they worked hard.
I asked the teacher if she has one, if she is proud of it, and if she could have gotten her career as a teacher without one to let that sink in.
I asked the kids to give their worksheet to their parents and talk to them about their choices and get advice from them.
I told them that they can achieve anything they want — if they really wanted it and they were willing to work hard.
I said that I had started working at 14 sweeping floors at a pharmacy (for the whopping sum of $1.00 an hour, the minimum wage), have never stopped working hard, and that any one who had a successful career had done that too.
I also reminded that that they had to stay physically fit, eat nutritious foods, and not sit too much playing video games and watching TV. Some know me from their after-school running club and that I love to exercise and that I am a vegetarian, so hopefully they’ll adopt healthier habits.
I think that my my message resonated with many of them.
In a humorous moment, one girl asked me if my career was being the mayor. And when I told a class that I was an attorney, another girl said she assumed that I was “because I looked like one.” And at the end of one presentation, a young girl sweetly smiled and said “God bless you,” which made my day.
It is my sincere hope that I have made a difference in some of these wonderful children’s lives over the last 12 years.
And I believe that the community must do more to support its schools and help its children to insure that our future is in sound hands.
I believe that it is.