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Spirited… 2015 in Review

In this season of gratitude, we at SPIRIT SERIES have a great deal to be thankful for. As demonstrated by the program updates included in this end-of-year newsletter, we are experiencing the most successful period in our organization’s 15-year history. Still…

As we write, gunmen are at large in San Bernardino CA in what appears to be our country’s deadliest attack since Sandy Hook, and the 355th mass shooting this year! These are chaotic and enormously challenging times. Our children are bearing witness to an onslaught of atrocities so common these days that now the unthinkable can almost seem routine.

We are seeing the impact in classrooms from California to Maine with behavior more difficult to manage, attention deficits endemic, bullying pervasive, and violent outbursts commonplace. Last month, during the attacks in Paris, a single question from an otherwise silent sixth grade student in Massachusetts sparked an avalanche of abject fear, vows of revenge, racial bias, and profound despair. Of course, our kids are hardly to blame. They are a clear reflection of the world that has fostered them.

Against this backdrop, our work at SPIRIT SERIES has taken on a new urgency. As many of you know, the SERIES was founded out of personal tragedy—a celebration of the human spirit intended to provide our children with inspiration, a moral compass, and the tools with which to navigate adversity: courage, grit, higher-level thinking, self-reflection, teamwork, resiliency, and self-esteem. Our cohort — ages 9 to 14 — remains, in the words of Martin Seligman author of Learned Optimism, “…the most fruitful time to turn pessimistic children into optimistic ones.”

And witnessing this transformation fills us with optimism every day. Southern California sixth grader, Caitlin Aladhan, could speak for thousands of successful program participants: ”I learned so much about myself and my class. I will remember SPIRIT SERIES for the rest of my life!” Now more than ever, the words of Sonia Miller, principal at Gompers Middle School, ring true: “it is time we tend to the spirit of our children!” Your generous gift can help fulfill this increasingly critical mission.

Leslie & Richard Strauss

p.s. How will the generation to come meet the many challenges they will no doubt face? In our view, only concerted collective action of the type SPIRIT SERIES teaches can turn the tide. As David Brooks put it in a recent New York Times Op-Ed: “Most of the time character is not an individual accomplishment. It emerges through joined hearts and souls…” Thank you for your support!

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