Helping students find their “platform”

As a teenager, I enjoyed the glamour of the Miss America beauty contests. As an adult, I avoided the seemingly shallow beauty pageants for their emphasis on outward beauty, swim suits, evening wear, and a single “on-stage” question.

But listening to profiles of the 2011 MissHawaiicontestants on KHON2, it occurred to me that all of these young women had to examine their lives and focus on one “platform” that reflects their priorities and values. They had to think about what is really important to them, and explain how they can make a difference.

That’s something I never had to think about it high school or college. I was never asked to focus my energy on a specific issue or cause. And aside from community service, no one challenged me to have a passion. The emphasis was always on college or finding a job.

Maybe we all need to participate in a beauty pageant in order to find our calling in life. Well, not a beauty pageant exactly, but an “inner beauty pageant.” There is more to life than work, and sometimes a calling can become a career.

Here are three ideas that schools could use to help students find their “platform” and motivate them to share it.

* Summer internship with non-profits. Public schools could partner with non-profit organizations to create summer internships. This would give students real-world experience with a social cause, letting them work directly with the community and government for school credit. Non-profits and the community would benefit from students’ help and enthusiasm.

* Student-run public service campaigns. Public schools could add an elective class that lets students choose the social causes that they want to champion. Students, either individually or in teams, would need to explain why the issue is important to them, come up with ways they can participate in and support their cause, create an education program, and encourage others to get involved.

* “Find Your Calling” Senior Thesis. As part of a college/career guidance class, public schools could create an elective Senior Thesis program which would help students choose a social cause that resonates with them, and help them find ways that they could participate in or educate others about the cause.

I wish that as a young adult I had been challenged to find my passion and how I could make a difference. Have you found your passion? How have you answered the call?

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