I think it makes sense to begin this story with my childhood. As the eldest of three brothers, I wanted to set a good example for my younger siblings. But ever since I can remember, my road has been rocky. I was always getting in trouble. For middle school and high school, I was sent to a Catholic military school a fair distance from my home. Looking back, I know this was a good place for me, but I was lonely and desperate for friends close to home. The group of kids that finally accepted me introduced me to drugs and alcohol. This was a difficult time in my life. I did not see how my actions affected my future. My motivation level was low. My skewed priorities harmed my relationships and my education. I had no confidence and no idea where I was going. One late summer night, everything should have changed…

 

Together with five other 16-year olds, I was in a horrific car accident. Driving 40mph over the speed limit, we hit an obstacle, ran off the road, crashed into a stop sign which deployed the air bags, and continued up a hill crashing into two parked SUVs. All three cars were totaled. I was sitting in the front passenger seat.

My mom went to the police impound lot the next day and took the photo above, hoping it would be a wake-up call.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Miraculously, all 6 of us had walked away from the totaled wreckage without a scratch, but we continued our foolish behavior. Since my friend had totaled his mom’s car, I “borrowed” my mom’s car to continue our joy rides. These came to an end one night a couple months later. My parents were awakened by the flashing lights as the police escorted me home at 5 a.m. I’d been pulled over for speeding, and I didn’t even have a license yet. Never mind permission to be out driving in the middle of the night. That evening there was an alarm on my door, I was on “house arrest” and forbidden to see my friends again.

My parents didn’t blame my friends. We all knew I was 100% responsible for my own choices. But they wanted my circumstances to help me think through the choices I was making. My mom gave me a book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. This was a monumental moment in my life. Sequestered in my room, I read the book, completed the activities and made connections between the content and my own life. Through Covey’s instruction and principles, I was able to look at my life long-term. New priorities, new understanding and new hope embodied my thoughts I was beginning a 180-degree turnaround. I began paying attention in school and enjoying learning. I began appreciating my relationships with my family who noticed that I was experiencing a mental shift.

After high school, I arrived at Westminster College ready to begin a new life! I was motivated! I was pumped! But, I was also clueless, living on my own for the first time ever. Despite the turnaround I’d experienced over the previous 18 months before leaving for college, I was a typical freshman enticed with partying and concerned with friends. I wanted to be successful, but didn’t have the tools. My freshman year was unfocused and my performance mediocre.

Inside of me, however, there was a fire that kept on burning …“You can do better!”

I looked around for people that inspired me. I identified two upperclassmen in particular. I saw that they were successful, with their relationships, grades, health, etc., while I wasn’t. As it turns out, both had attended the same leadership training program, LEAP – Leadership, Excellence, Acceleration Potential, and both recommended me for this program. The program teaches young people the essential skills and tools for a successful life. I attended the camp in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college on scholarship from James Malinchak.

It is not an overstatement to say that LEAP changed my life. It has given me the courage and motivation to dream big. Through the exposure to amazing success stories and role models at this program, I realized that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. Additionally, LEAP has given me the knowledge necessary to manage and direct my life.

There is nothing like TEACHING material to help you LEARN it. I know from my own experience, and the experiences shared by so many of my fellow coaches and students, and my wonderful mentors, that this type of success skills training is needed by today’s young adults. LEAP was so incredible and motivating for me that I have volunteered each summer to help this camp achieve their mission of spreading this inspiration to others.

 

Website for the Leap Foundation