triumphant young girl at Spirit Series stage performance

SPIRITED ’23: The Hero In Us All…

Dear Supporters and Friends,

Like many people, we often wonder these days if our world can meet the grave perils that now face us. This question takes on real urgency as distrust, violence and despair seem to threaten at every turn. Are we up to the task? After working in public education for nearly a quarter-century now, we have found our answer. A resounding YES! The tens of thousands of students we’ve served have taught us a simple truth: we humans thrive on challenge. We have the capacity, the drive, the need to rise and meet the moment. How do we know this with such certainty? Here is just one case in point:

Jason read at a third grade level…in the spring of his sixth grade year. He had profound learning disabilities and a full-time aide to help navigate his challenges on the autism spectrum. By the third day of our SpiritSeries residency, it was time for the play to be cast. And Jason put his name in the Greek urn for the lead role: Socrates. There was silence in the classroom when, by lottery, his name was chosen. His teacher was not sure that he fully understood what he had just done. When we explained that he would have nearly 50 lines in the play and be required to learn Greek philosophy, Jason nodded and simply said: “I can do it, if I have help.”

“We humans thrive on challenge.”

But there was no one at home to help him. So, day after day for three weeks, Jason made his way to the library at lunch to study his lines with our staff or his aide. His determination made clear that he knew full well what was at stake for him here. Still, as his teacher explained, there was no guarantee that he would even show up on finale day, let alone be willing or able to perform. At the dress rehearsal, our classroom leader stopped to make him a promise: “I’ll be right there next to you tomorrow—offstage—through the whole show.”

Many a tear was shed in the auditorium on performance day. His teacher, classroom parents, school leaders, even the assistant superintendent—all of them knew Jason and reveled in his pitch perfect Socrates. The standing ovation and his classmates shout outs must have rung in his ears for hours afterwards. And, as he found his teacher again at the end of the school day, he was still beaming: “Yeah… This must be what heaven feels like.”

We cannot take credit for the countless triumphs—large and small—that we have seen over the years. Our job is to set the proper conditions for success—to call forth that innate yearning in our students to climb the mountain and exceed expectations. The success itself belongs to them, and is a testament to the heroic in us all. As Maine eighth grader, Dana T., concluded after SpiritCorps: “I learned that I have shown more courage than I realized. Not only while crafting my story…but throughout my life.”

Our programs—whether SpiritSeries in grades four through seven, or SpiritCorps in grades seven to ten—seek to initiate students into young adulthood, to leave a lasting imprint of self-efficacy, fortifying them to meet the next challenge they will face with more confidence and a history now of success. Thank you, once again, for empowering our young people to meet the future with your generous support!

Together we grow!

Leslie & Richard Strauss

P.S. And you can play an active part in their empowerment. Watch this brief video to learn about our SpiritCorps Story Coach volunteer opportunity. Together We Grow!

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