Looking at my NBHS Education from the Other Side of 50


Now that I’m looking at my NBHS education from the other side of 50, there are clearly benefits that I see now, but I undervalued during high school.   During my days at North Baltimore High School, I always wished I had access to a wider variety of selections:  classes, sports teams, and extracurricular activities.  My cousins went to Findlay High School.  I remember seeing their French books on the kitchen table, violins in the hallway, and listening to their exciting stories about extracurricular opportunities not even heard of at NBHS.  Wow!  Wouldn’t it be thrilling to go to a big high school, ripe with so many choices?

Still yearning for more choices, I headed straight for the biggest college in Ohio as soon as I graduated from NBHS. At OSU, I thoroughly enjoyed the wide selection of activities there.  When it came time to decide where to raise our family, we settled in Findlay.  I was proud that our kids would have access to the opportunities that I felt I had missed.  Musically, they could pick between band or orchestra as early as fourth grade.  Athletically, there were several sports per season for them to choose.  When it came time to schedule high school classes, there was an incredible menu of choices.  Our children participated in a wide spectrum of extracurricular activities.

Access to a variety of opportunities is definitely a selling point for a big school district, but it comes at a cost.  A fourth grader has to choose between band OR orchestra.   Many varsity sports virtually require that an athlete has been participating at a competitive travel level since a very early age and throughout multiple seasons per year.  Oh, and don’t forget the sports camps and the private lessons!   If a child dreams of participating in one of the best show choirs in the Midwest, she needs to begin to take voice and dance lessons at an early age.  The list goes on.

When it came time for each of our children to choose a college, we embarked upon an extensive series of college visits.  Over the course of college searches for three children, I guarantee that I have heard over 50 college admission speeches, most of them at small, private liberal arts colleges.   Regardless of the locale, they shared the same message.  They each go something like this.

Shut your eyes and picture yourself in a beautifully paneled room sitting in an overstuffed chair surrounded by leather bound volumes of books.  Glance out the leaded glass window and look upon Gothic buildings, mature hardwood trees, and smiling students darting across the college green.  Next, a college admissions counselor walks into the room, shares an inspirational video, and then shares why your child should attend this college.  First, he will say that your child will have personal relationships with his instructors here.  Your child will know his instructors on a first name basis and his instructors will care deeply about your child.  Second, the admissions counselor will say, “This is the time of your child’s life when he will have a chance to try new things.  An artist can learn a new sport; a science student can learn a new language; a musician can write for the school newspaper.”    Finally, they share an amazing tidbit like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Longfellow sat side by side in the same English class here.

These were the moments when I really began to appreciate my NBHS education.  We did have teachers who cared deeply about us at NBHS.  We were lucky to have classes with some teachers several times throughout our high school careers so were able to build an especially strong and trusting relationship with them.   They mentored us, cheered for us, and told us when we were out of line.  They are still happy to see us around the community.  And just as the college admissions counselor promised, we even called them by their first names, just not to their faces!

Most believe that the beauty of a liberal arts education is the chance to explore new things.   I didn’t know it then, but we were especially blessed in this realm at NBHS.  We could try a new sport in high school even if we hadn’t played on travel teams since age five.  We could be a cheerleader without gymnastics lessons.  We could be in the school musical without voice or dancing lessons.  We could march in the band even if we never practiced our instrument outside the band room.  We didn’t need to be a superstar to captain a sports team or a great writer to work on the school paper.  NBHS provided a safe place for us to participate in many activities:  to try new things, to identify our passion areas, to learn to lead.  I believe that is why so many NBHS graduates have gone on to accomplish great things.

As for the admission counselor’s three specific selling points, I’m not sure that those pricey liberal arts colleges have anything to offer that we didn’t already get at good old NBHS, other than taking English in the same classroom as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Longfellow.


Goofy but Proud

How To Tell Your Focus Story:  Nonprofit Storytelling, Part 4

If you read the “About” page on this blog, I shared this on the very first day:

“Soon, I feel like this skill will launch me on a new adventure. My goal is to find better ways to help nonprofit agencies tell their powerful stories. Each day, the donors and staff of nonprofit agencies change lives: feed the hungry, empower the weak, hug the unloved. Mostly, these stories go untold. My goal is to share these beautiful human interactions with the world.”

Today, I had a welcome surprise after lunch.  I quickly responded to the emails that had come to my office account and I saw one of my favorite emails.  Last fall, I heard Nancy Schwartz present at a nonprofit social media training and since then I follow her Getting Attention blog.  Nancy’s emails to share her blog posts are like email candy for me.  I love to learn about social media success stories from other nonprofits.

Today, when I opened up the blog, I was proud to see that Nancy had shared one of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation’s Facebook posts as a good example of nonprofit intermediary post.  It almost made it seem like the 10,000 hours I have spent on Facebook are paying off, except for the time that I let the utility sink overflow and flood the basement while I was entranced with Facebook.

One Thing Leads to Another

Alzheimer's Walk 2012: Findlay Ohio

Alzheimer’s Walk 2012: Findlay Ohio

(Please note this is posted on the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation website at http://community-foundation.com/category/blog/.  This is a piece I wrote for work.)

Last summer, we had a chat with two staff members of the Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter:  Salli Bollin, Executive Director, and Marty Williman, Education Manager.   Gathered around the board table at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, we were discussing a very successful program: the Transitions group for early stage Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

Marty Williman, who facilitates the Hancock County Transitions group, shared wonderful stories:  outings to local parks, networking opportunities for caregivers, and poignant comments from Alzheimer’s patients.  From the Foundation perspective, the Transitions program was a great investment as it had definitely improved the quality of life in our community.

As the success stories continued, a very special Transitions participant was mentioned:  Reverend Darrell Prichard.  According to Marty Williman, Darrell was an incredibly active advocate for Alzheimer’s patients and their families and had an Alzheimer’s diagnosis himself.  As the Darrell Prichard story unfurled with details about days filled with visits to local politicians’ offices, fundraising for upcoming Alzheimer’s walks, and even serving as a panelist at trainings for Alzheimer’s professionals, my mind began to race.  I knew this story was magic and, more importantly, I knew it was local magic.  Who better than the Community Foundation to find a way to capture the story of a true local hero?

We began to brainstorm with Salli and Marty about their interest in capturing Darrell’s courage in facing his diagnosis in a visual format.  In a serendipitous series of events, we found ourselves sitting in a room with Ben Severance a few weeks later.  Ben is a young visual storyteller from New Hampshire who was trained at Western Kentucky University, the premiere photojournalism program in the country.  Ben came with a portfolio of beautiful work, most notably the now famous molasses video and top-notch references to match.

The Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter decided to partner with Ben to create a short documentary about Reverend Prichard and the Foundation board supported that work with a $14,000 grant.  The documentary will chronicle the adversities that Darrell faces and how he overcomes those obstacles to continue a lifetime of service that he has refocused on Alzheimer’s advocacy.  The cast of characters will include Darrell’s loving family and his multitude of friends.

The finished piece will be entered in film festivals, hosted on the national Alzheimer’s Association website, the Minnesota Alzheimer’s 2020 website, and shared with people who are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease.  There will be a world premiere of the documentary on June 29, 2013 in Findlay, Ohio.  Wherever it lands, Darrell Prichard’s story of bravery, advocacy, and kindness will help break the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s disease, empower caregivers, and share a message of hope with newly diagnosed individuals.  Maybe best of all, we captured a little bit of Findlay magic.

Remember, that this is the ultimate pay it forward story.   Generous end of life gifts from Anna Van Gorder and George Countryman created funds at the Community Foundation.  In 2012, the proceeds from those funds were used to fund a grant to the Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter, to start an early stage Alzheimer’s group in Hancock County.  Thanks to the generosity of Anna Van Gorder and George Countryman, a local hero has found his voice and is sharing his courageous story with Alzheimer’s patients throughout the country.

The Irascible Uruguayan

Luis Suarez, Liverpool's Irascible Uruguayan

Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s Irascible Uruguayan

The Beautiful Game.  Soccer.  Futbol.  Call it what you may; it is my new obsession.  Mostly, I wonder how a billion people are watching this sport and somehow I missed my invitation to the party.  And this is a party I would love to have attended much earlier.  My two favorite things in the world are sports and exploring other cultures; soccer sits squarely at the intersection of both.

Oh, I had my chances.  My son played youth soccer from age three through fifth grade, but all I remember is shivering in a lawn chair bundled up in a blanket in the constant winds that only northwest Ohio can produce.  On a positive note, I did learn the rules of soccer during those years.  Probably the most amazing fact about the world’s most popular game is the total number of rules:  the FIFA 17 Laws of the Game.   It seems appropriate that the beautiful game would not be encumbered with minutiae, just 17 simple laws.

So what changed?  During high school, my son spent many hours in front of the living room television playing FIFA video soccer.  The video soccer matches are commentated by an English broadcast team.   As the backdrop to our everyday lives, we were hearing announcer Martin Tyler spout quintessential English soccer remarks such as “clinical,” “lucrative,”” exhilarating run,” and  “gorgeous shape of a pass.”  We have never heard any of these quotes in an American football game.   Somehow that poetic commentary drew me in and I was quickly hooked.

At the same juncture, my hometown had an upgrade in cable television and we were able to access Barclays Premiere League soccer matches. The best news about BPL games is they happen at 8:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings in Ohio.  What a great sport for an early riser like me!  Even better yet, I learned that we could watch the biggest matches at Logan’s Irish Pub in Findlay.  What is not to love about watching the Manchester Derby sipping a Bloody Mary while surrounded by friends?

I have my favorite teams in American sports but didn’t know which team to support during my first full season of Barclays Premiere League.  My son cheers for Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) so I followed his lead.  He told me that Manchester City would be very good that season (2011-12) due to the unlimited spending power of its owner, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, whose family fortune is purported to exceed $1 trillion.  So, I joined the other Citizens and rooted for a team that had not won a championship since 1968. I am a Cleveland Browns fan so that seemed like a fairly short drought. 

My first season as a Barclays Premiere League fan was complicated because there was so much to learn.  There are many new vocabulary words:  relegation, loans, fixtures, transfer window.   As my son predicted, Manchester City shot out to a quick lead early in the season, but after Christmas the Citizens started to lag and with only five weeks left in the season found themselves trailing their hated cross-town rivals, Manchester United, by eight points with five weeks left in the season.   

Yet on a Sunday morning in mid-May, my family was awake early and gathered around the television to watch the last match of the season.  Manchester United had already defeated Sunderland 1-0 and Manchester City was trailing the lowly Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at the end of regulation time.  Only five stoppage minutes were left in the match.  Unbelievably, Edin Dzeko scored for MCFC two minutes into stoppage time and Sergio Aguero scored again two minutes later to secure three points for Manchester City thus snatching the Barclays Premier League championship from the hated Red Devils on goal differential.  The ensuing celebration in Manchester actually registered on a seismic level.  Lifelong Manchester City fans openly wept. 

At that moment, our family was high fiving and jumping on the couch in Findlay, Ohio.  We had officially joined a global family over a billion strong: one family united around a simple beautiful game, a game that crosses all cultural and geographical boundaries, and best of all, a game with a poetic soundtrack.  What’s not to love about announcers shouting “the irascible Uruguayan,” ‘the Ivorian,” and “Chicharito?”

What’s next?  We have had a chance to watch some soccer in the states including Manchester United vs. Barcelona in Washington D.C.  Last fall, we watched the USA national team play the Reggae Boyz representing Jamaica.    We are anxious to see USA vs. Mexico World Cup Qualifier next September at Crew Stadium.  My bucket list got a lot longer when I fell in love with soccer.  I’m hoping there is at least one World Cup match in my future and definitely a trip across the pond to see Barclays Premiere League matches soon.  Jeff and Marie Swaisgood, just let us know when you are ready to go!

Happy Groundhog Day!


Happy Groundhog Day!


Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray?  In that movie, the lead character becomes ensnared in a time loop as the same day repeats over and over again.

In celebration of today’s holiday, I would like to share my own episode of “Groundhog Day.”  My time loop is not about a repeating day, but about a repeating experience.  I like to call my episode the “Sixth Grade Lunch Table.”  Guys, I’m not sure what happened at your sixth grade lunch table but ladies, I’m pretty sure we share similar experiences. 

Shut your eyes.  Think about sixth grade.  How high was your level of self-confidence?  Who did you sit with at lunch? Who did you pray would not sit at your table each day?

Let me guess.  First, you remembered how unconfident you felt.  It was hard being a 12 year-old.   It was a time of great physical and emotional changes.  None of us had figured out who we wanted to be, but we were constantly worried about what our peers thought we should be.  It was a harsh measuring stick and none of us could measure up to those expectations.

Next, you thought about who you sat with at sixth grade lunch.  Likely, you remember a group of friends that made you feel safe and comfortable.  And, there was always that table where you wished you could sit, the one with the kids who seemed to be one notch cooler than your table.

Finally, you thought about who you avoided in the lunch room.  I know the answer to that:  the mean girls!  (If you didn’t answer mean girls, I’m sad to inform you that you probably were a mean girl.)  Admit it; you can picture their faces and you probably remember their names.   They always sat together and glared at other tables. There was even a movie made about them called “Mean Girls” in which one character famously said, “I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me… but I can’t help it that I’m so popular.”

Now flashback to the present; I bet your story has a happy ending.  You are very confident in who you are.  Your measuring stick is your own, not one prescribed by your peers.  You are still surrounded by a group of safe, comfortable friends.  As for the mean girls, they are long gone.  They definitely aren’t part of your life anymore and likely you can’t even remember what happened to them.  I realize now that most of them had reached the pinnacle of their life at age 12. 

As for my personal episode of “Groundhog Day,” there are occasionally times when I find myself in situations when bullies try to use intimidation tactics.  Immediately, I remind myself that this is “Sixth Grade Lunch Table” all over again.  I notice the bullies are still using the same tactics.  They are pack animals; they never attack alone.  They try to dictate desired behaviors for others.  They love to use gossip and innuendo as their sword.

At that point, I say out loud, “This is sixth grade all over again.  I didn’t like it the first time and I’m not going to relive it now.”  And then I confidently walk away from the bullies, back to my circle of safe and comfortable friends.  I’m very secure in who I am and what choices I make without their influence.  True confession:  every once in a while I peek over my shoulder because I know they will eventually crash and burn just like they did after sixth grade.