We all have seen our share of bright and academically talented students. They are articulate, mature, well balanced, and focused. They have a multitude of assets and their youthful idealism will no doubt serve them well. That said - why does it seem that the little things always seem to escape them?
Perhaps I should explain. I have encountered and witness countless students walk into the office of faculty and administrators with neither pause, greeting, nor apology and rattle off a number of requests, demands, and/or needs. Now before any of you chalk this up to enthusiasm, nervous energy, or the like, allow me to add. . .the faculty or administrator were already engaged in a conversation. Now you understand my angst.
We hope that all of our students understand, practice, and respect manners, common courtesies, and civility before they get to us. However, if not, it is the responsibility of all educators to make sure that we are producing not only an intelligent, critical thinking, alumni, but also one that understands and practices civility and respect with everyone. Over time, we discover that people are not always impressed with credentials, pedigree, and status. However, they are most often impressed with manners, a sincere greeting, and an honest smile. Teach our students and children that it's often the little things that matter."
Hold fast to Dreams,
Many barriers stand in the way of academic success for college students. Far too many will fail to realize their academic potential for a myriad of reasons – including financial aid, negative peer pressure, low expectations, unsupported academic/social environments, and a host of others. Universities and colleges can do a myriad of things to address the aforementioned barriers, but it is going to take the love and concern of family and friends to address the one area that has wrecked havoc in the lives of our children. We must teach our students to put pride in its proper place.
Rarely do we meet students who do not have the cognitive wherewithal to do well. However, far too many are ill prepared for the demands of higher education because they refuse to accept the premise that excellence demands sacrifice. Yes, I am talking about the proverbial sacrifices of time, comfort, preferences, etc. I also am talking about the unspoken sacrifices of pride and ego. We must teach our students that in order to grasp the rings of success they will have to let go of who they are for what they can become. Pride often prevents us from doing what we know is necessary to succeed. . .not survive. . .but succeed. Our pride prevents us from studying outside of our circle of friends; from using tutorials and seeking supplemental resources; using the office hours of the instructors; or informing others of our failures, fears, and shortcomings.
If we can teach our students to let go of their egos and focus on their long term goals of academic success and ultimately, a college education, then perhaps they will know what it means to put pride in its proper place.
"Hold fast to dreams"
As Americans, we often live vicariously through the heroic deeds of others. We applaud and salute the dedication and commitment of our Military Service personnel. We read, watch, and hear about valiant efforts of our men and woman in civilian uniform - such as our police, fire, and rescue. We cheer loudly at the "heroic" efforts of our local sports heroes. Yet we rarely stop to recognize and applaud the bravery that is required from our children to be successful in and outside the classroom.
At one time or another, all have nervously looked away as the instructor called upon us to answer a question. We have sheepishly declined a trip to the blackboard to solve a problem. We all have had questions for the instructor and yet our arm remained glued to our side. The reasons and rationale are many of why we dare not. Some of us fear failure, others fear disapproval from peers, while others fear how they will be perceived after the question is asked. I have no doubt that all of us have been uncomfortable with our ignorance at some period – however, some were brave enough to move beyond this place of "discomfort". There is nothing wrong with not knowing - it is however, a tragedy to wish to remain in that deplorable state of ignorance. Much like their parents, far too many youth today are in this zone. Moreover, if educators, mentors, and parents do not teach and encourage them to be brave – there they will remain.
Many of our youth think they know what it means to be brave. However, very few realize that it takes more than just bravado, muscle, or “swag”. We must teach our youth what it truly means to be bold and brave - in and outside of the classroom. We must teach our students to define themselves through their thoughts, words, and deeds. We must be honest with our students and tell them that there always will be certain things that are beyond their control. Teach them not to be afraid when they encounter persons who are better prepared; or when they are confronted with new environments and opportunities. Teach them to concentrate on those things that they can control - such as excellence; character, hard work, and values. If ever there was a time for all of us to be brave, it is now. Our children can be neither complacent nor afraid to go beyond what is comfortable, convenient or familiar. Parents and educators need to be courageous enough to believe; our children need to be brave enough to dream; and all of us need to be daring enough to try. Then, and only then, will this truly be the the "land of the brave".
"Hold fast to dreams"
What is the secret to happiness?
Care more than others think is wise
Risk more than others think is safe
Give more than others think is necessary
Expect more than others think is possible
Dream more than others think is practical
and above all else, "Keep your head about you
when all others are losing theirs and blaming it
Hold Fast to Dreams
Often times, extreme problems require extreme solutions. It is apparent that average thoughts, average intelligence, average language, and average action and leadership is not going to be enough to move our society forward. And thus, I implore all parents and all educators to take up my banner and my battle cry and commit to teaching all of our students how to FIGHT ( the urge to be average)!
If ever there was a time to teach our youth to be brave and daring, it is now. We do not want them to be brave for any grand cause, necessarily. Definitely, not for recognition, fame, nor praise. We want them to seek these things because it is something that tugs at their heart, something that is their aspiration, something that is their dream.
Society demands of our youth the courage, the dignity, and the integrity to generate behavior and leadership beyond what sight reveals and what sound announces. We need you to go beyond the obvious, beyond what is easy, strategic, and/or popular. We need you to be brave and believe in the impossible, pay no attention to what others call reasonable and safe - inside and outside the classroom. Students, If you are to deliver on your promise and your destiny, we need you to embark on noble tasks (no matter how small) that will inspire, motivate, and bring others to your cause.
The demands of this age and the expectations for this generation are extraordinary: to meet them, extraordinary young men and women are required. There are no promises of success - there is simply your humanity, your leadership, your commitment to the greater good - and the premise and obligation that says “of those to whom much is given, much is required.
Hold Fast to Dreams
Every now and then you run across a story, poem, greeting card. . .that simply expresses either a feeling, a belief, or a creed much better than you ever could. This is one of those stories. Enjoy.
A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat.
A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.
Soon the hat began to fill up.. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?"
The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way." I wrote: "Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it."
Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so lucky that they were not blind. Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?
Moral of the Story: Be thankful for what you have. Be creative and innovative. Think differently and positively. When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, show life that you have 1000 reasons to smile. Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear.
The most beautiful thing is to see a person smiling. Even more beautiful, is knowing that you are the reason behind it!!! "Live your life like it's golden."
Hold Fast To Dreams
Me and You, Daddy
We're two peas in a pod
Mommy's best guys
Now, you're with God
But before you went home
You were so good to me
Giving me hugs, kisses, fun times
A perfect daddy - all could see
Now that you're up in heaven
Don't you worry at all about me
You put me on the right path
I'll make you smile - just wait and see!
I love you, Da Da, Pierce
In loving memory to our Meyerhoff son and brother
A Scholar and a Gentleman
Gene Alvin Giles, Jr. (M4)
November 20, 1974 - September 20, 2010
An education fund has been established for Pierce Giles in Gene's memory.
Contributions may be made in the name of Pierce Giles and mailed to:
Alexandria, Virginia 22315
As a new academic year gets underway, I want to share with the students an outstanding parable entitled the Carpenter's Tale.
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business to live a more leisurely life with his wife and enjoy his extended family. He would miss the paycheck each week, but he wanted to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but over time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came to inspect the house. Then he handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, "This is your house... my gift to you."
The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.
So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then, with shock, we realize we have to live in the house we have built - wishing that f we could do it all over.
But, you cannot go back. To all my students, please, please, please remember, that YOU are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Your attitude, and the choices you make today, help build the "house" you will have to live in tomorrow. Therefore, it would behoove you to build wisely.
Ode to a Scholar
“Why push so hard and demand so much?”
You ask with anger in your eyes
“Because the race is not to the swift,
But to those who keep sight of the prize
I know my high standards upset you
You fear you can't reach the bar
But I fear that you don't understand
Just how talented and special you are
I taught you to believe in yourself
You have gifts and talents to do it all
But you must be committed to your goals
And allow nothing or no one to make you fall
Right now, life is good and quite easy
But harder times are in store
And the only way to get through it
Is to work hard - and then work some more
No one expects you to be perfect
The Lord knows that I was not
Seek not perfection, but excellence
Dig deep and give all you’ve got
This is neither the time to rest on laurels
Nor lose sight of the important goals
When hope seems lost and despair abounds
That is the time to search your soul
I will continue to expect more from you
Even, when all your energy seems spent
To some this will be criticism
I hope you will see the compliment
You will meet some with low expectations
But know that as long as you live
I will expect more from you
Because you have more to give
Spend little time on how others judge you
Their judgment's fleeting and it will pass
You be the judge and your judgment should be
Service to others and this, my child, will last
When success is found and attained
And all your battles have been won
Give praise, give thanks, and give back
And be happy with whom you’ve become
As life goes on, your success will grow
Your list of accolades will surely get higher
However, never get so high that you forget
That "to whom much is given, much is required"
You’re a star and greatness waits you
So shine your light to the very end
I wish you well in all you do
Farewell, my child, my scholar, my friend
Congratulations on behalf of the staff & students
of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC
Americans are devoted, passionate, and quite loyal to our sports teams and the athletes that are associated with them. Our enthusiasm runs the spectrum of competition - from little league, high school, college, to professional. We celebrate joyously when they win and commiserate with total strangers when they lose. It is not hard to imagine that most fans of the New Orleans Saints, the Boston Celtics, NY Yankees, and a host of other teams are wearing paraphernalia that proudly states, "We're Number One!"
So I ask, why is it so hard for us to have this same enthusiasm and pride for our institutions and our scholars that excel in academics? Why is it that the State Champion high school football team receives trophies, plaques, banquets, and letter jackets, and the honor roll students receive bumper stickers? As a former athlete, I fully understand the dedication, effort, and skill set required to be the best. In fact, I learned early in my athletic career that "excellence demands sacrifice." However, these same attributes are required to excel in and out of the classroom.
We must start changing the culture that promotes our athletic prowess and yet minimizes academic achievement. The same motivation and encouragement that we give athletes, also will work in an academic environment. We should tell our scholars that "with practice, determination, commitment, and persistence, you can be what ever it is you want.
For quite some time, UMBC and the Meyerhoff Program have consistently ranked among the country's best in math and science graduation rates, graduate and professional school placement, and STEM graduate degree completion. Yet, even our alumni are quite modest about their university, their program, and the success of their peers as well as their own impressive accomplishments.
Finally, it is my hope that the faculty and staff of UMBC and Meyerhoff Alumni know how proud we are of their efforts, their accomplishments (in and out of the classroom), and the way that they have carried themselves throughout their impressive journeys. I also hope they know that because of their efforts, commitment to excellence, their willingness to sacrifice, their unyielding support of each other, and the support of the principals and mission of the Meyerhoff program, UMBC is able to say "We are Number One." And for that, so are you!
"Hold Fast to Dreams"
UMBC faculty and staff often are asked what makes this place and our students so special. At times the answers do not come easily for there are many things that make this university and its students above par and unique. For me, the answer is simple - we do not allow our students to be either marginal or mediocre - either in their thoughts, words, or deeds.
We are neither willing to lend our students excuses nor crutches of complacency that serve either as barriers or limitations to their potential and eventual success. We refuse to make it easy or fashionable for our students to say and believe either that "I can't, I won't, or I will never."
I encourage all educators and parents to pause a few minutes and just observe your students. You will notice that the students need not move, speak, nor reveal a single thought, and yet, what they love, what they fear, and what is important to them will be evident for all to see. For our children and our students are a reflection of our nation, our states, our schools, and of ourselves.
I have no doubt that all students will come to know and to demand excellence in every aspect of their lives when: Faculty care more than others think is wise; Administrators risk more than others think is safe; Parents expect more than others think practical; and Students dream more than others think possible.
"Hold Fast to Dreams"
This academic year will one day be a history of challenges met and overcome, of hard-fought struggles, of remarkable achievements. On this day, however, it is a blank slate, waiting for key personnel and cohorts from this program to make their mark. Perhaps the most influential cohort and persons of this academic year will be the seniors who are making their mark on the program and the university and are preparing to leave both better than they found them. Perhaps the most influential persons of this academic year will be our first year students who come to us enthused, determined, and destined to make a difference.
During the course of last year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Program. As we embark on the next 20 years, the Program stands at this moment ready as it has always been to prepare young men and women to excel in academics, to display character and substance, and prepared to meet the challenges of our times. The Meyerhoff/MARC Scholars Program at UMBC has a long list of educated, honorable, and steadfast leaders – a list that will continue far into the future.
As the staff and I welcome all of you back to a new academic year, we want to remind everyone “To whom much is given, much is required.” We encourage all of you to allow this mantra to guide your thoughts, words, and deeds. Throughout this academic year, the staff is hoping that you will take the time to make a difference in the lives of others. We encourage this because not only is it the right thing to do, but because the more you assist and encourage others, the more you will come to appreciate what you have and the resources that are available to you.
At the end of each semester, we say to ourselves, “. . . if I had it to do all over again. . .” Well, here is your chance. Make it count! Welcome back!