I have a great mentor, friend and supporter of our youth leadership programs that lives in Texas. Not many successful businessmen in the world are as humble, caring and genuine as my friend. Last month I asked my friend to sponsor an inner-city kid from Dallas to attend our Global Youth Leadership Academy in Switzerland this summer.
For the past twenty years our National Leadership Academy brings a couple hundred high school students to Denver to participate in a four-day intense youth leadership development and service-learning program in June. And every July, our Global Youth Leadership Academy takes up to 38 high school students abroad to teach them the profound impact servant leadership has on, not only the world, but themselves. Over the years we have taken high school students to Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Italy, Greece, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic….and this July 20-27…we are going to Switzerland.
My Texan friend challenged me. Told me he could sponsor ten kids to attend a local youth camp for the same price to sponsor only one kid to attend our GYLA program in Switzerland. Told me as a businessman, he was challenged with this multiplier. Told me that for a fraction of the cost his local camp provides kids “the best week of their lives”.
This got me thinking.
I have profound respect for my Texan friend. I could write a chapter in my next book about how this special man has changed the world with his vision and generosity. But he did me a favor declining to sponsor an inner-city kid to attend our GYLA program in Switzerland. Why? Because he confirmed my “why”. Made me realize that I didn’t start our youth leadership non-profit organization twenty years ago to offer kids “the best week of their lives”. I started these youth programs two decades ago because I wanted to “change kids lives”. There is a difference. A big difference.
In 2001, my friend Jim Collins released, in my opinion, the best business book ever written, Good to Great.
Jim challenged all sectors of the workforce to become the best in the world at something. And the greatest companies in the world do just that…they have become the best in the world at what they do. This is what truly separates good from great.
A couple years ago I hired a great marketing company out of Northern California to help our for-profit company, Tommy Spaulding Companies and our non-profit organization, Spaulding Leadership Institute, with branding. These folks were amazing. They got feedback from our staff, volunteers, past and current clients, past and current participants in our leadership programs, donors, parents…you name it…they interviewed them. And three months later they came back with three words.
Leadership Changing Lives
And here’s what they said. You don’t just write books. You don’t just give speeches. You don’t just have corporate leadership retreats. And you don’t just have youth leadership programs. EVERYTHING your organization does…it does it to Change Lives – both personally and professionally. And quoting Jim Collins, “this is what you are best in the world at”.
Our GYLA staff will fly to Zurich for training and prep work a few days before all our student participants arrive on July 20th. And on July 19th…as I always do…I will take the staff to a special dinner. I have given the same program eve speech for the last two decades. “Gang…if I don’t receive 38 phone calls from the parents, teachers or sponsors of each of our student participants next week saying…WHAT THE HECK DID YOU DO TO MY KID…then we have failed our student participants!” Simply put…we are not interested in providing our student participants the “best week of their lives”. We are committed to “changing these kid’s lives”. There is a difference. A big difference.
Teaching students that in order to have the capacity of loving and serving others, one must first love and serve themselves. This is hard for a fifteen-year old kid to grasp.
Teaching students that the four most important words in life (and in leadership) are: It’s Not About You. This is hard for most sixteen-year-old kids to understand.
Teaching students that we are called to love and serve all people: blacks, whites, Jews, Christians, Muslims, rich, poor, gay, straight…ALL people. Period! This can be hard for a seventeen-year-old to fully embrace.
Teaching students that there are three types of people in the world: Leaders, Followers and Critics. And the choice is ours. That we get to choose which one we want to become. Eighteen-year old’s need to be challenged to choose to become a leader.
We will have 200 high school students from over twenty-five States attend our 20thannual Ben Graebel National Leadership Academy in Denver, Colorado this June 20-23. And we will have 38 high school students from twenty different states (and countries) at our annual GYLA program in Switzerland this July 20-27.
We basically have two programs fees: Full fee and nearly free. The diversity in both programs is incredible. Over 50% of our students’ participants receive significant scholarship support.
If you want to personally sponsor a kid to attend NLA and/or GYLA. If your company wants to sponsor a student(s). Please reach out to me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be incredibly honored to partner with you to change more students’ lives.
If you have a son or daughter or want to nominate someone to attend our NLA or GYLA program, please have them fill out an application at:
Lastly, to bring this BLOG back to you and your organization.
Your product. Your service. Your company. And your team will have a choice. Do you want to build an organization that is, metaphorically, “the best week of their lives”? Or do you want to build an organization that, metaphorically, “changes kid’s lives”? There is a difference. A big difference. The choice is yours. And you don’t need to hire a fancy marketing company from Northern California to figure it out.
Thank you in advance for your consideration in supporting NLA and/or GYLA.