Empower students and improve education

On the first day of the Teen Habits program, I hand kids a pencil and tell them it’s their magic wand.  Wave it around—imagine you’re 40 years old.  What does your life look like? What are your dreams?

Through this exercise, I’ve learned that many kids don’t feel listened to.  They don’t have the support to reach for their goals and many don’t even have the confidence to dream.  As Idahoans work together to improve education, that should be on our minds.

Long, Dan
Dan Long, 2008 Idaho Business Man of the Year

Education is ripe for change, but for that to happen we need to get fired up.  We need tables turned over. Idaho is on the threshold of creating something great through our young people.  Private industry, the education sector and the Idaho community are joining their voices to say we want to fix this.

At youth leadership training, we ask kids to list 10 talents or skills they offer.  But one time, a 16-year-old boy turned in a blank paper.  This smart, athletic, handsome young man who spoke three different languages said, “I’m not good at anything.”  He, like so many kids, doesn’t have any vision, ideals or goals because there is no one to encourage him or offer feedback.  No one is telling him he can.

Teachers should not have to bear the full weight of educating and inspiring our children.  Learning is limitless.  It happens on the car ride home from school, at the kitchen table, on the playground and during the summer.  Every member of the community can take part in improving a child’s view of themselves.

I know this first hand because I struggled through school as a kid. Being labeled “dumb” by your peers, other parents and teachers was a major obstacle.  I wasn’t dumb or a bad kid — I just had a different way of learning.

Back in 2008, I was honored as Idaho’s Small Business Person of the Year and got to visit the White House for it.  When I was there, I couldn’t help but think about all the obstacles I’d conquered and felt proud.  But I also felt like I wasn’t finished. It was time to take my experiences and offer kids the encouragement I never had. That’s why we created Teen Habits.

Teen Habits uses Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens and proven business management principles as a guide for kids to recognize and reach their potential.  My theory is, if these principles are so important when we become grown-ups, why can’t we learn and use them as kids?

Creating this program is not a career move.  I don’t seek to have my name on a building — I want to see a kid writing in his journal that through our work, he was inspired to reach for his dreams.

We need to work together to move youth forward and help kids become the best version of themselves.

I am proud to support a movement like Don’t Fail Idaho that is helping all Idahoans share ideas about education improvement.  This includes involving students who want to share ideas.  They should be a voice in this change.

Our kids are smart.  They learn in different ways and require some passionate leaders to help them understand their goals and guide them along a path.  Let’s work together to make sure all of our students succeed in reaching for their dreams.