Making a Difference One Person at a Time
Posted by Mr. Bob Rehm, CUDE, VP Sales and Service, Credit Union Resources, Inc on 4/3/2017

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation’s Focus Summit.  Among the speakers was the Los Angeles area teacher who became the subject of the book and movie, “The Freedom Writers Diary.”

We heard stories from that teacher, Miss G (Erin Gruwell), and two of her former students.  By fostering an educational experience that values and promotes diversity, Erin transformed her students’ lives. She challenged them to reconsider their self-image and opinions of others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately, re-chart their futures.

Later, Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches educators around the world how to implement innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. She created the Freedom Writers Methodology, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula designed to achieve excellence from all students. Erin continues to fight for equality in education and inspires teachers and students all over the world with her work.

At the Focus Summit, Miss G and the students talked about our ability to change our lives – and the ability to change the lives of those around us.  Courage.  Persistence. These are qualities we all have deep within us.  Sometimes we just need another person to nudge us into believing that we have those qualities and that we can call on them to help us achieve a better life. 

But what can one person do? 

A lot! Many participants at the conference are people who work in financial education at credit unions.  They engage people every day in their struggles to maintain financial stability and achieve their education and work goals.  Financial empowerment sits at the center of their work.  Through credit unions, they deliver excellent education programs.  People helping people.  One by one making a difference in peoples’ lives.  The power of one.

The smallest things in life have the power to affect others.  Miss G talked about the 1989 Tiananmen Square student-led demonstrations in China.  She said that the widely viewed photo of the man who became known as Tank Man inspired her to action, to stand up, to become a teacher.  During civilian protests for freedom, he alone stood in front of four military tanks.  In her case, she decided to go teach in a Los Angeles area school where few people would be willing to take on the challenge.

She found that the students, in most cases, had lost their will to escape a life of poverty, crime and hopelessness.  Encouraging them to journal their lives, and challenging them not to push her away, she eventually got them to realize they had the power to change the trajectory of their life’s path.  As all of us do, when someone does something nice for you, you feel energized.  You have gratitude.  You might pay it forward.  These kids starting doing just that with each other.  She taught them that life is not about where you have been. It’s not about where you are. It’s about where you can go.

How do you get involved?  How do you exercise the power of one?

Categories: Education & Training
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