Are CHS students up to his challenge?

“You don’t have to be great to start something, you have to start something to be great.”                 

Craig Hillier, a youth speaker who has spoken to more than 2 million students, brought these words to Crookston High School Tuesday and I think they left quite a lasting impression.

    I came to school Tuesday morning trying to fight off the cold weather and my crabby attitude caused by lack of sleep. I trudged on to my second hour class, AP Government, expecting to learn more about Federalists and Anti-Federalists, forgetting that the whole student body was to meet in the auditorium to listen to a speaker talk about the importance of leadership in our school.

    As I entered the auditorium, not expecting much. The song “Don’t Stop Believing” was blaring over a speaker while kids pushed and shoved to snatch a spot by their friends, and my first impression was that I was going to run out of patience by the time I got to my seat. My prediction soon changed.

    To begin the program, Craig had us place one hand in the air and try and stretch it out as far as we could. He then had us try to reach as high as we could get two more times, to show us that when we apply ourselves, we are much more capable of accomplishing things than we give ourselves credit for. Everyone has the ability to “stretch” to the next level.

    Craig shared with us his 3 R’s of leadership: resilience, respect and responsibility. With the first R, resilience, Craig talked about turning setbacks into comebacks and said, “Your decisions will determine your direction,” as he tied in some of his rather interesting skiing stories on a slope called “Big Brave,” mentioning that we all have a “Big Brave” in our own lives.

    Respect was next and through stories of his own high school experiences, Craig stressed how crucial it is to realize that all students are different, but that through leadership, we can set aside those differences and give everyone the respect they deserve.

    As soon as the third R, responsibility, was introduced it was followed by many deep sighs. As a senior, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard the word responsibility in the last two months, but this time the word had more meaning to it for me. Craig explained that true leaders don’t blame others, go into denial or quit when facing an obstacle or what he called a “Big Brave.” They take responsibility for their actions and the ones of others around them, whether it be on a team or in the classroom.

    At 10:30 a.m., most of the students were dismissed to go back to class while about 50 students were invited to stay back for more activities with Craig. I felt fortunate that I was given the opportunity to stay and listen to Craig speak for two more hours. We participated in various activities, and there was one thing that left an impression on me. When asked what his goal for the year was, one student said that he would like to maintain his 4.0 GPA. Craig agreed that this was a good goal, but had an even better challenge for the student. He said, “While you maintain your 4.0, I challenge you to help someone else, who may be struggling in school, reach that same goal.” That is what a true leader is: Someone who recognizes that success doesn’t just come from succeeding themselves, but also from insuring the betterment of those around them.

    In my opinion, in order to be a successful speaker, you have to engage your audience, making it feel as though you are having a conversation with them opposed to lecturing them. That’s exactly what Craig did. While still getting his point across, he shared his own stories, cracked a few jokes and got his audience thinking from a different perspective once he left. This was a great investment by Crookston High School, one that I hope becomes a yearly tradition.

    What do you say, CHS? Wouldn’t it be great to look back in the spring, before us seniors graduate, knowing that we made our high school better for years to come? Let’s put what we learned from Craig Hillier to the test and make a difference. It all starts with leadership.