There are few positives to catching an early morning flight. Without fail the night before I barely sleep for fear of missing that alarm. Invariably I have forgotten to pack one or two things that for some reason are not where I remember them . I can’t get enough coffee coursing through my veins and if it is the first flight of the morning, I am met at the airport by hoards of people feeling exactly the same way. There is a zombie moment in security where everyone slips off the accessories they just struggled to put on as they put one foot routinely in front of the other. I giggle to myself and think this would be a fantastic picture but I am much too lazy to pull my camera from the bag thinking TSA would surely make me miss my plane and so I set my heavy bag up on the conveyor.

There are not many reasons why I would take a 22 hour trip much less one that begins with a 7:00 am flight followed the next morning by a 6:20 am flight. This was a unique opportunity to support a special group. It was the Strive for College annual meeting. Michael Carter inspired me from the moment I met him. At 19 years of age he recognized the inequity in college access for low-income students and decided to do something about it. As a freshman at Washington University he piloted a mentoring program. Eight years later the movement thrives with his and others energy and new ideas. As I looked out over the faces of earnest and eager mentors visiting San José to share stories, beliefs and best practices, I realized what a magical moment this was. Michael is a CNN Hero (see the link above) tackling a 400,000 per year challenge to educate and change young people’s lives and I believe he can solve the problem.

“When my first (mentee) called me and said, ‘I got into my first college. You helped changed my life,’ I started crying,” Carter said. “I was like, ‘I think I really did help change your life.’ And it was just an amazing feeling.”

To know Michael is to love him. He is committed, genuine, gentle and kind. As I stood there speaking with these young people approaching me with questions about my journey and for insights I thought to myself, “ah, if you only knew how much you are teaching me….”

You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give. Winston Churchill

These young people brimming with curiosity and promise filled my heart with their questions and challenges. I marveled at their innocence and worldliness. As they stood in a circle playing a game and laughing I thought to myself that I hope the child I was would admire the person I have become. They inspire me to be a better person.

And so it was on this early morning that I took my window seat and reflected on my 8 hours in San José, counted my blessings and looked out the window to see the sun rise over the clouds as though acknowledging the dream can become a reality.


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