"I Want To See You Change the World Because I Know You Can," by Amy Murray

 {Amy Murray is a Councilwoman for the City of Cincinnati, Chairwoman of the city's Transportation Committee, and a Japanese Business Consultant}

{Amy Murray is a Councilwoman for the City of Cincinnati, Chairwoman of the city's Transportation Committee, and a Japanese Business Consultant}

You are a good person. Cincinnati cares about you, we have not forgotten about you. The community in our city wants to encourage and help you grow into the best possible person you can become.

I want to see you change the world because I know you can.

I believe that people are shaped by the hardships they are able to overcome. Your story is one that needs to be heard to help change Cincinnati and America. Only you can help us transform our society so others don’t experience what you are experiencing. To be honest, you will need to focus on your education to help us. An education will give you the tools you need. Reading, writing, critical thinking skills, public speaking, and so much more are necessary to be successful and learned in school. Without these tools, it is nearly impossible to get your message out to the world. I know, school isn’t always fun and it can be hard. But imagine how different the world would be today if someone such as Martin Luther King Jr. had not taken school seriously. Education was so important to him that he received a Ph.D. in 1955 and he was able to use it to change the world. I know that you have that power within you.

Life isn’t fair, but use this to make you stronger and wiser. Don’t let this push you down, instead let it build you up. Lean on the community who wants to help you, who wants to hear what you have to say. You are worthy of our support, and we want to help you in any way you need.

"Grit," by Greg Landsman

 {Greg Landsman is the Executive Director of the  Strive Partnership  & one of the principle people behind the  Cincinnati Preschool Promise }

{Greg Landsman is the Executive Director of the Strive Partnership & one of the principle people behind the Cincinnati Preschool Promise}

GRIT.

When you think about it, most people never talk about grit.  

It doesn't come up in a casual conversation, is all I'm saying.  

It's not a word people use often.  Or ever.      

But it's everything.  

Every successful person I know that wasn't handed their success, got it through grit.  

We overlook grit, and focus on the other things that helped those who achieved success get that success - such as being smart or having talent, or both.  

She's the CEO because she's smart.  Okay.  I'm sure she is smart.  But that's not why she's the CEO.    

He's president of the United States because he can give a good speech.  I know he can give a good speech.  Obama has talent.  But that's not why he's the president.  

The difference between someone with talent or a big brain and real success is grit.  Determination.  They wanted it more.  

Maybe they got lucky along the way.  Of course they did.  But luck happens here and there...randomly.  Grit is what keeps you moving forward.    

A fierce and unwavering commitment to a goal.  That's what keeps you in motion.   

The persistence to fight through adversity - no matter how big or small.  That's what motivates you.  

That's grit. 

Lincoln had it.  Ali has it.  Serena Williams has it. 

Start with Lincoln.  

Lincoln had a once in a generation mind, but that's not what made him president or got him the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.  He simply refused to give up.  That's why there is a statue of him, and that's why his face is on the penny (once a big deal, I imagine).  Lincoln lost a lot of elections before he became president, and when he won the White House, half of the country left his and tried to form their own nation.  But he kept at it, fought a war (which he lost for years before he finally wore the Confederates down), brought the nation back together, and masterfully ended slavery.  And while ending slavery seems like a slam dunk today, it was virtually impossible when Lincoln did it.  Even those who opposed slavery, many at least, just wanted the war to be over.  If they could end the war and keep slavery, so be it.  But not Lincoln.  He wanted slavery gone.  And it was determination, or grit, that made it so.  

Ali had game, don't get me wrong.  He was fast.  He could dance.  His combinations were epic.  But he didn't beat Foreman with speed.  He didn't even dance that night.  Ali regained his championship belt against Foreman, and defied the odds, with grit.  He wanted it more.  Ali was willing to let Foreman use him as a punching bag for seven rounds, or nearly thirty minutes, just so George would tire.  And George did tire.  He ran out of gas.  Ali didn't.  And in the 8th, Ali dropped George Foreman and got his belt back.  Ali had lots of fights like that.  

Serena Williams is insane.  I mean, she might be the strongest, most talented athlete ever.  But she's nearly 35 years old, breaking records, whooping up on 20 year olds, and there is no end in sight.  The difference between Serena Williams and everyone else is grit.  Others have it, for sure.  But not like Serena.  She's not messing around.  She'll fight through anything.    

What's great about grit is you can pick it up whenever you want.  It's not like talent, or a skill people are born with or learn after years of practice.  It's not like being really smart either.  I don't really understand what it takes to be really smart, I just know I'm not.  I know what I know, and I know what I don't know.  And I don't know much.  But no one will work harder.  

I have grit because people believed in me, and, eventually, I began to believe in myself.  

And I've faced adversity.  Very bad things happened to me and my parents when I was only a few years old.  I also got sick a lot as a kid.  I was bullied in school.  I lost my first election.   

I've never been homeless.  And I've never been truly abused.  I've never seen things that many who have been homeless or abused have seen.  I don't know what that's like.  I don't.    

But I know people who have been through adversity worse than me.  And they fought back.  They didn't do it alone.  Someone stepped in.  But they fought back.     

The thing is, we get to decide if we have grit or not.  It's not like talent or being smart.  We decide.  

We also get to decide if we want to help someone else find their grit.    

Every young person has some talent, and many of them are smart.  I believe that.  Most of them have a lot of talent, actually, and more than most are very smart.  

Someone just needs to remind them of that.  Lots of people do really.  

Then they need to be told that no matter what, talent or no talent, smart or not, learn grit.  And never forget you have it.   

Grit is everything.  And it's the one thing everyone can have. 

"Unicorns Can Change the World," by Jill O'Bryan

 {Jill O'Bryan was UpSpring's Summer Marketing Intern - she studies at Miami University}

{Jill O'Bryan was UpSpring's Summer Marketing Intern - she studies at Miami University}

This year at school I read a book about how to make big impacts in little ways. The book opened and closed with the same line, “talent is universal, but opportunity is not” and delved into the importance of bridging the gap between widespread talent, and often limited opportunity. The Yellow Bus Summer Camp gives opportunity to an incredible amount of untapped talent. They bridge the gap. Getting to experience that firsthand this summer gave me a brand new perspective on my own city and the value of education within it.  

Much of my time this summer was spent coordinating the pre and post testing that was used to measure literacy retention rates over the duration of the camp. I always joked that all the kids were going to hate me because I was the testing lady, but they were surprisingly good sports about it (a couple of our enthusiastic5 and 6 year olds even asked to do it twice).  On one of the first days of camp I went into a classroom and asked for a 3rd grader to come do his test. He walked out with me very reluctantly, pouting, and almost in tears. We sat down at the testing room desks and I handed him the 3rd grade reading passage, assuming that he was just really not a big fan of reading as his pouting continued.  After I finished explaining the directions I asked him to begin and he just sort of sat there and stared at the paper until he finally muttered, “I can’t”.  As it turns out, he had never learned how to read, or was too nervous to read in front of me for fear of doing poorly. At the closing of camp I retested him. He was by no means the fastest reader in the classroom and he still struggled. But the words “I can’t” never came out of his mouth again. He took on each passage with a considerable amount of new confidence and asked questions along the way. His teachers helped change his attitude this summer, and that changed his outcome. 

Another camp afternoon I was helping the younger ones make puppets with Mad Cap Puppets. As I was helping put their puppets together almost all of them wanted to explain to me what it was that their puppet was going to be, all while handing me pipe cleaners and feathers and googly eyes at a mile a minute. Although I don’t know exactly what a “dog-cat” mix would sound like, or what a “blob monster” would be able to do, they used their imaginations and the resources they had to create entirely new worlds and creatures. I think sometimes this kind of talent can get squelched because it isn’t academic, but this kind of talent is so unique and important. Creative people move the world. And I’m not saying creating a unicorn puppet that can “shoot lasers out of its eyes” is a world changing idea, but by giving these kids an outlet to think in an unconfined way, the YBSC is making inventive problem solvers and out of the box thinkers. 

Everybody has “smarts”, but sometimes our smarts are in different things. I am truly lucky to have gotten to see these kids’ smarts, whatever they are, used, encouraged, and grown this summer inside and outside of the classroom. It is an experience that I know will always be a part of me, and one I will not soon forget.