Do you know your gifts?

I had the opportunity to share the stage with Dalton Sherman, an extraordinary young man. Many know him from the YouTube video of his speech to over 20,000 Dallas Independent School District teachers and support staff, “Do You Believe in Me?” Dalton and I spoke at the Closing the Achievement Gap: Cutting the Pipeline to Prison Conference held recently in Columbia, South Carolina. Dalton spoke from the heart when he posed the question of parents and teachers, “Do you believe in me?” He also posed the question of students, “Do you believe in yourself?”

These two simple questions, “Do you believe in me?” and “Do you believe in yourself?” challenges parents, teachers, and students to engage in much needed self-reflection. When parents and teachers communicate their belief in their children and students they invariably are looking for students’ gifts and talents, potential and possibilities. A common theme in student achievement research is the importance of parent and teacher expectations and their belief in student potential and student achievement.

An important component of a college’s admission decision is what students will bring to a college’s school community—leadership, athletic abilities, creative gifts in the arts, or gifts and talents across a broad range of intellectual and creative areas. Long before sitting down to put together their college applications, students must ask themselves the following five questions:

  1. What are my passions?
  2. What are my gifts, talents, or interests?
  3. What are the opportunities within my school and community to pursue my passions or develop my talents?
  4. What are the before-school, after-school, or summer program opportunities to pursue my passions or develop my talents?
  5. What level of commitment am I willing to make to pursuing my passions and developing my talents?

Encouraging children to develop their gifts and providing opportunities for them to be exposed to personal development and enrichment programs will greatly expand their postsecondary opportunities and enrich their lives.