A School Where Passion Rules

By Walt F.J. Goodridge

Special to the Saipan Tribune
Originally published: December 10, 2008


The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

“While graduation rates in traditional high schools are reaching dismal lows of 5%, the percentage of kids graduating from a school like the Bronx Guild utilizing passion-centered learning are at 90% and above!”

(Inspired by and dedicated to the Bronx Guild)

Imagine if you would a world
where students yearn for class
Inspired to achieve much more
than just get by and pass

Their teachers get to know them
and what makes it all worthwhile
They learn about the world in ways
that honor their true style

Imagine just how far they’ll be
the difference that they’ll make
When energy and interests guide
the courses that they take

Their families’ and teams’ support
hone character AND mind
And yes they read and write well too
They won’t get left behind

And mentored by adults
while they engage the world around
They’ll gain some real life smarts
as they grow up and outward bound

Eventually they’ll graduate
with life’s best skills and tools
For learning’s an adventure
in a school where passion rules!

A few months ago, an administrator at a unique new school in the Bronx, New York, called and told me an intriguing story:

Alex, a tenth-grader attending The Bronx Guild, was searching online for a music industry internship, as part of the Apprenticeship Program at his school. He found my hiphopentrepreneur.com website, downloaded my bio, and submitted it to the program coordinator as a possible lead.

On the administrator’s invitation, I visited this unique school and was blown away! I met Rhonda and Al, Alex’s teachers, who introduced me to a curriculum that featured—in addition to the standard focus on math, science, social studies and English—independent projects based on students’ unique interests, and an apprenticeship program which gives them real-world experience in their field of choice.

During my short visit, I spoke to one student who was interning in the mayor’s office, another whose passion for horses had her doing research comparing equine and human immunity, and saw others actively engaged on computers in a variety of passion-centered pursuits. On top of that—now get this—they end each day with 10 minutes of positive affirmations!

This was all new to me, and it was like seeing the type of school and educational environment I wished existed during my school years! Better still, being an advocate of the pursuit of one’s passion as a life strategy, it was just the type of school I would start myself!

The most impressive thing I learned was that while graduation rates in traditional high schools are reaching dismal lows of 5 percent, the percentage of kids graduating from a school like the Bronx Guild, utilizing what I call passion-centered learning, are at 90 percent and above!

The Bronx Guild is one of the new menu of educational options available to families, and that are using experiential learning (learning by being and doing), and using the Big Picture philosophy* and model to engage students. They’ve realized that different individuals respond to different learning environments, as described by an excerpt from their mission statement:

“The development of Individualized Learning Plans for each student ensures that we are meeting the needs of all learners, that the curriculum is designed around how people learn, and that a student’s engagement is based on his or her passion.”—Excerpt from Bronx Guild Mission Statement

*[And from the bigpicture.org website] “Big Picture Learning’s mission is to lead vital changes in education, both in the United States and internationally, by generating and sustaining innovative, personalized schools that work in tandem with the real world of the greater community. We believe that in order to sustain successful schools where authentic and relevant learning takes place, we must continually innovate techniques and test learning tools to make our schools better and more rigorous. Lastly, we believe that in order to create and influence the schools of the future, we must use the lessons learned through our practice and research to give us added leverage to impact changes in public policy.”

Wow! Pretty soon, if this trend continues, we’ll have a whole generation of passionpreneurs and a movement of passion-centered thinking and activity that can revolutionize our children’s education, their futures, and make a world of difference.

And speaking of making a difference in an era of change:

The African American Cultural Preservation Committee is calling for entries for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Essay and Elocution Contest. The topic this year is “What Would Martin Say?” All students in the CNMI are invited. See the www.blacksonsaipan.com website for details. Fliers are being distributed to the schools this week.

Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!

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Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

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Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of over two dozen books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several businesses in the US, and now makes his home here on Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt’s philosophy and formula visit www.saipanpreneur.com and www.passionprofit.com)