As a Peace Corps volunteer and a key player in the nationwide education initiative, The Future Project, Sarah Blanchard Tankoos is a living example of the importance of encouraging young people to follow their dreams. As we bid farewell to our students at the end of this school year, what meaningful gifts can we give them? In her powerful Kindness Project post, Sarah shares how we can make a lasting impact.
What are you interested in? What are your dreams? What are you passionate about? How do you want to make the world a better place? How can you turn your ideas into action and how can I support you?
These are the best questions that I believe we as educators, parents, and mentors, can offer young people.
The greatest gift we can receive in our lives is someone who believes in us when we don’t believe in ourselves.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt incredibly supported by my parents, sister, and those around to me, to discover my interests, pursue my passions, and achieve big dreams.
The greatest gifts I was given as a child were questions about my interests and dreams, consistent affirmations that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to, and a demonstrated support – in the simplest of ways – to help me pursue what mattered most to me at any given time of my journey.
When I was 10, I wanted to be a marine biologist, so my parents bought me an over-sized t-shirt with an image of the ocean’s ecosystem, which would quickly become my favorite article of clothing. When I was 11 years old, I wanted to be an archeologist so my babysitter shared what she was learning in her Native American archeology class and my parents encouraged me to start digging in the backyard. I didn’t find more than slugs and salamanders, but I looked! When I was 12, I wanted to be a singer, so my parents motivated me to sign up for our school’s chorus and audition for our high school musicals. I never received any solos or talking roles, but I certainly sang more!
I didn’t grow up to achieve any of my childhood goals since my interests evolved over time; but, throughout my youth, I was consistently encouraged to pursue my immediate interests, passions, and dreams at a young age – and I grew up with a sense of curiosity and confidence to discover and fulfill new ones along the way, like joining the Peace Corps, helping to build a nationwide education initiative called The Future Project, traveling solo to 12 countries, and most recently, pursuing my MBA.
While growing up, I can’t remember a time when I heard, “you can’t do that” or “you should do something else” or “that’s not possible.” But, I did hear affirmations like, “that sounds really interesting” or “try it out” or “put your time into it” and questions like “why is this important to you?” or “what do you feel you need to do to in order to achieve this?” or “how can I help you?”
Though the best gifts I was given by my parents and mentors didn’t take too much money or time, it was the caring intention behind them that made the biggest difference for me. I grew up with a constant sense of possibility and encouragement toward pursuing what I was curious about and what I wanted to do at any given time – and I developed a sense of belief that I could achieve anything that I focused my energy on.
Each of us is unique with different interests, passions, and dreams to offer to the world. I believe the greatest gift that we can give to our young people is to ask them about what’s important to them, what they want to pursue, encourage them to take next steps on that journey, and assure them that these things matter not only to them, but to us, too, as someone invested in who they are and who they want to become – and that we want them to succeed in any path they choose.
If young people do not feel like they have a path or do not know what their future will look like, the greatest gift we can offer them is help them create a big, beautiful vision for themselves, demonstrate our belief in their pursuit, and encourage them to start taking action toward it now.
If we demonstrate our belief in our young people and encourage them to take action toward their dreams, they will believe in themselves and do miraculous things because of that belief. It can help them persevere through odds and failures because belief is beyond any one goal or dream; it is about developing imagination, confidence, space to try new things, and an unwavering commitment to growth, improvement, and the continuous pursuit of something greater beyond ourselves.
Check out more wonderful ideas from the Kindness Project here!
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