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Advice for Youth: Be Intentional

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Stephanie South

Mike Maiurro is one of those people you immediately like, and you know he is claimed by more than one student as a favorite teacher. He has a firm handshake and a warm smile, and you immediately feel at ease in his presence which, when you're only a year out of college and about to give advice to a classroom full of high school students, is a very good thing.

Mr. Maiurro is the sponsor of the leadership class and the student council at Fountain Fort Carson High School, and for the last month or so, he has done more than simply tell students how to lead successful lives—he has shown them. He has reached out to former students, various community members, and yes, your very own El Pomar Fellows and invited them to speak to his class of high school students about how they have gotten to where they are and what they have learned along the way.

Now, I do not claim to be a success or have a successful life—I think I have a long way to go—but when another Fellow, Darcy Struckhoff, and I were invited to speak along with some of the other Fellows, we had to think of something to say. After discussing our college experiences, which were vastly different, we discovered the biggest lesson we had learned was actually the same:

Be intentional.

When it comes to choosing classes, declaring a major, getting involved, and making connections, be intentional. Don't just take a class because it's required; take a class that is going to challenge the way you look at the world. Before you declare a major, ask yourself if it is actually what you—not your parents or your advisers or that speaker you heard one time—want to major in and are going to be passionate about for your college career and beyond. When you want to get involved on campus, don't just build your resume—create your legacy. And, when you meet people who are in positions to help you get ahead, don't just swap cards with them; create a relationship and keep in touch.

Although I am not entirely sure what Darcy and I said was useful to these students (though I hope it was), the opportunity to reflect on the lesson I had learned so clearly in college and to consider how it relates to the Fellowship was much needed.

As I, and the rest of the 2010 Fellowship class, prepare to transition into our second year as Fellows—and all the leadership responsibilities that come with it—the decision to be intentional is extremely relevant and crucial to our success. Not only do we have incoming First Year Fellows to orient and incorporate into the culture of the Fellowship and El Pomar Foundation as a whole, but each of us is currently trying to define the gray area of opportunity that is our future post-Fellowship.

As the new Fellows enter our world (SAVE THE DATE: July 18, 2011), we must decide how it is that we want to lead them and what we want our words and actions to say about the kind of leader we are. We must be intentional with setting out our expectations, goals, and values so our vision for ourselves and our leadership becomes reality. We must be intentional in figuring out how we can work to set them up for success and achievement instead of hoping they serendipitously learn something from us in the year we direct them.

We must also be intentional as we begin to consider and shape what our post-Fellowship lives and careers will look like. We must be intentional about finding mentors who will not only support but challenge and focus us. We must be intentional about sorting through opportunities and pursuing those that will truly expand our skill set and help us get where we are going. We must be intentional in being present in our current positions and striving for excellence in our time at El Pomar Foundation.

Although my attention is definitely focused on my more immediate future—finishing this column, creating project databases for the incoming El Pomar interns, and attending an upcoming conference on volunteerism—I am considering how intentionality can help me make the most of my Fellowship experience, prepare me for my next steps, and ensure that I have a story worth sharing with students like the ones in Mr. Maiurro’s class.