story Tag

A Story of a Courageous Student Named Anthony

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 display of courage.

I remember Anthony. 

Anthony was an eighth grader who was so excited about the day. He was running up to myself and other facilitators giving us high-fives, he was dancing in front of his entire class. He was just an awesome, really fun guy.

And so I was really surprised to learn that he was one of the number one targets at his school.

And I was more surprised when Anthony got up to share at the end of his Courage Retreat.

He said, “Hi, my name is Anthony, and my Act of Courage is to be myself and to quit trying to impress you all so much.

I know you all egg me on to make some really dumb choices and you push me around. I hear the names that you call me. And, I know that you say ‘you’re just kidding’, but honestly, you have no idea how much they impact me.

You have no idea how much courage it takes for me just to get up and come to school everyday.

So, I’m going to ask you all to please quit and I’m just going to be myself. I hope that you respect that.”

Nobody moved.

I mean for a solid minute. People just sat there with their heads down. Some people started to cry.

I don’t think anybody realized how much their words were impacting and hurting Anthony until he got up and shared his Act of Courage that day.

Coolest thing was that after he shared, old friends of his got up and they apologized to him for being a part of what was making his life so miserable at school.

And by the end of the day, there was that big smile on Anthony’s face again. But, we knew at that point that it was the real deal. It was a real smile.

He felt heard. He felt seen.

It was an amazing day. I’ll never forget, Anthony.


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 honor.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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balloon raffle

Be a Part of Our Story

Each year, Youth Frontiers hosts events that support our work and mission. Our goal is to create experiences that encourage connection and community, as well as financially support our crucial work in schools. Here’s a recap of the events we hosted during the 2015-16 school year.READ MORE

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