Let Freedom Ring!

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)

We have such an incredible advantage as Americans to explore all of the incredible things that make us unique as individuals. Our great country is filled with opportunities and at LEAP Foundation DC, we encourage each and every mentee and scholar to reach for the stars. Happy birthday, America! Let freedom ring!

F: Follow dreams – Americans are dreamers. We daydream about the person we want to become, the job we’d like to land, the business we’d like to build and the life we’d like to lead. And the best part? There are boundless opportunities to do so. Discover what your school, community, nonprofit organizations and mentors have to offer. The best way to reach dreams is to never stop having them. Find ways to build on them and go for it.

R: Respect – As Americans, we have a responsibility not to only show one another respect, but earn it for ourselves. At LEAP Foundation DC, we want the young people we mentor to recognize the importance of showing respect to peers, family and mentors. But in return, it is critical that today’s generation of youth demand the same of those with whom they choose to interact.

E: Education – The founder of LEAP Foundation DC, Dr. Clayton Lawrence, recognized the exponential power of education at a very young age. That’s why he has chosen to share his journey of success with the scholars and mentees who participate in the organization’s programming. We are fortunate, here in the United States, to send youth to public schools that offer an education with the future in mind. We are lucky to have the opportunity to choose our own academic paths that, undoubtedly, will lead to bright futures if we stay the course.

E: Exploration – “This land is your land, this land is my land” … we live in a beautiful country, some areas landscaped with rolling mountains, others endless land and many overlooking vast oceans. When we explore the histories of states from coast to coast, we are better connected with the past and present, and more prepared to approach the future with knowledge and excitement.

D: Declare & Defend – Be true to oneself. Don’t be afraid to declare who you are and then defend that as you make your way to success. That’s the freedom of living in America.

O: Opportunity – It’s the million dollar question: What do you want to be when you grow up? As very young people, we think about the future with excitement and eagerness, ready to become the next doctor, lawyer, teacher or other leader. As we grow, whether due to failures, negative comments or disabilities, those hopes and dreams begin to fade away. Don’t let them. We live in a land that affords us the opportunity to think big. No one ever said the path to success was easy, but only your voice is the one that can tell you to give up.

M: Master – As young people, you are the master of your own destiny. No mountain is too great. If you already have direction in life, great! Set goals to get there. If you are unsure of what the future holds, get out there and explore your likes and dislikes. Take up classes, try new activities and take advantage of programs your school or community might offer. Be the master of your own destiny.