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A Life-Changing Moment for a Student

At Youth Frontiers, it’s our mission to positively impact school communities through our retreats. One wonderful part of our job is that the same students we reach often impact us in turn. For our staff, these students and their stories are unforgettable. In this series, we remember them.

This is a story of a student and his life-changing moment.

I remember Abdul.

It was one of my first speaking experiences at Youth Frontiers in around 2002. And, I remember being in Evergreen Elementary in the gymnasium, staring at the clock on the wall, watching the second-hand slowly make its way around. 

Tick-tick-tick.

For me, this was going to be one of my first talks that I was going to give in front of a live audience and I was nervous.

I instantly knew when it came time to give my talk that I was in way over my head.

I started talking but they could tell that I was struggling, which meant that they couldn’t stop wiggling. And the teachers are no doubt judging. And my face is intensely sweating when…

I looked up. 

And when I did, I made eye contact with a young student who’s nametag I read said, Abdul.

I don’t know, it was like one of those things where there was this voice in my soul that said…

“Joe. Connect.”

And so I did the only thing I could do in that moment. I held his eyes a little bit longer than normal. I gave him a small little smile. One that said, 

“I see you, brother”.

Afterwards, I was connecting with Adbul’s teachers. They told me that it had been a very difficult year for him. It had been a struggle even to get a smile on his face somedays.

I remember as we were walking out of the gymnasium, I made eye contact with him one more time.

Walking over to him, I got down on a knee. I placed a hand on his shoulder. Beaming smile on his face and a beaming smile on my face. And he just says,

“Mr. Joe, you make my heart so happy”.

Now, nearly fifteen years later, I haven’t seen Adbul since that time.

Yet, I reached out to him on Facebook because I had never forgotten about him. And I said,

“Hey dude, I don’t know if you remember me but around fifteen years ago I led a retreat at your school for a company called, Youth Frontiers. You made a huge impact on me and I’ve never forgotten about it. Would you be willing to meet me for coffee?”

And he said, “Yes”.

Abdul’s now 24 years old and I said, “What are you up to?” He said,

“I’m working for this organization called, Youth Frontiers”

I said, “No way! That’s the company I was working for when I led that retreat so many years ago”.

He’s doing the same work. Inspiring the same kind of kids. 

I knew that this one moment of connection with this student was life-changing.


This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is mind.

One Student’s Commitment to Respect

At Youth Frontiers, it’s our mission to positively impact school communities through our retreats. One wonderful part of our job is that the same students we reach often impact us in turn. For our staff, these students and their stories are unforgettable. In this series, we remember them.

This is a story of a student and his commitment to respect.

I remember Shawn.

Shawn was a student on a Respect Retreat in Wisconsin. I very clearly remember pulling up to this particular retreat because…

The retreat space was in a strip mall in an old abandoned store.

We unloaded all our stuff and when the kids arrived it became clear that the strip mall was not the only weird thing about the day.

The kids were just not quite ready for the day in the way that we wanted them to be.

The most extreme part of the day was this senior leader named, Shawn.

Shawn was the first one to raise his hand for everything. He dominated his small group. Anytime we did a large-group event,

Shawn had to win. He had to be first. Shawn had to be in front for everything.

By the end of the day when we did the campfire, we were bracing ourselves for what Shawn was going to say.

He picked up the microphone and said,

“The area of respect that I need to work on is respecting others more”.

“I realized today that I don’t see or hear anyone else but me”.

“I want to work on respecting others. And really seeing people and hearing them for who they are”.

It was like everyone sighed a breath of relief. This student leader was going to have a commitment to respect.

Shawn was finally going to listen. So that they could be heard.


This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is wisdom.

I remember students named Jared & Claire

At Youth Frontiers, it’s our mission to positively impact school communities through our retreats. One of the more wonderful parts of our job is that the same students we reach often impact us in turn. For our staff, these students and their stories are unforgettable. In this series, we remember them.


This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is kindness.

A Kindness Challenge

My kindness challenge began with a gift. My best friend in college was always big on journaling, so when I hinted that I wanted to try to keep one, she eagerly picked a journal out for me as a present for my following birthday. The journal didn’t just have blank pages but instead began each week with a prompt, a sort of challenge to work on every single day that week.

When I opened this book, I didn’t start from the beginning (because that would be too easy I guess) but instead flipped to a random week in the middle with the challenge: “Say something kind or do something kind for a complete stranger every day this week.” On the bottom of each page, there were a few lines to write down the random act of kindness.

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I remember a student named Isaiah

At Youth Frontiers, it’s our mission to positively impact school communities through our retreats. One of the more wonderful parts of our job is that the same students we reach often impact us in turn. For our staff, these students and their stories are unforgettable. In this series, we remember them.


This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is purpose.

Megan talking to young leaders about their innate value.

What if your value were a given?

What if your value were a given? This is perhaps a simple concept, but how often, and how many of us, walk in the world believing that our own value, our worth, is a given?

A few months back, a mentor of mine posed this question to me and asked me to sit with this idea for a week. My initial response was, “Well of course I know my value is a given! I am a successful woman, I’ve accomplished a lot in my lifetime, I know I have the respect of others …” and then continued to list off all of my various accomplishments, mostly career- and education-related: I graduated from a prestigious college; I’ve always held leadership positions; I’ve been promoted to positions I want at work; etc. None of these accomplishments, though, really get to the heart of the question at stake — what if my value were a given, regardless of my accomplishments?

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