PAYBAC to the Future

How many people here have children? How often do you think about their future education? I have a 10-year-old boy and two nieces 14 ad 10 and I just assume they will go to college and have good careers and do the things that they love. They go to a Montessori private school and get the best education. I have put money away for my son for when he is ready to go to college. I can do that. My parents help a lot.

What about the children out there that cannot get what my kids have? What about the children in lower income families that can’t afford to put money away for college? What about the children that don’t have supportive parents and grandparents that will help them to achieve their goals in life?

I never really thought about this until recently. My Toastmaster mentor and I were talking one day and he told me about this volunteer program called PAYBAC. This stands for Professionals and Youth Building a Commitment. The purpose of this program is to motivate the youth to stay in school. They will hopefully continue their education and achieve meaningful employment and enjoy a productive life.

So what does this mean to me? I am self-centered and to me it meant that I would get to talk and give all my great knowledge to these kids who need help. I can do something good and it benefits me as well because I get to practice my speaking skills. I get to prove how great I am. I have a bit of an ego. I told you I am self-centered.

I went to my first endeavor on January 29th to a middle school and I was ready. I went to sign in and talked to some other volunteers who were also going to speak. I ate the breakfast that they served. I drank some apple juice and then got escorted to one of the classrooms. I walked in and I felt pretty confident. The kids were all working on individual projects. The substitute teacher thought I was just there to observe. I told him I was supposed to speak. He yelled for the kids to put their work away and to pay attention and listen to me. He kept reminding them to behave. I never saw them misbehave but maybe I am not there enough to see it. They were very quiet and listened to me.

So I talked to them about my education and how important it is to continue their education and the benefits of getting a better education and their futures. I tried to focus on the kids that really seemed to be listening. I also tried to bring in the kids that seemed like they didn’t want to be there. I used specific examples, they asked questions and I answered and I made it through. I did it! I made the difference. After that speech, all those kids were going to finish high school and go to college. I was so proud.

I signed up for 4 more of these speeches and I was going to make the difference in everyone’s life for I am the queen of speaking to kids. I am about he same size as them and I fit right in. Why wouldn’t they listen to me?

My second endeavor was on February 26th in another school where I also spoke to middle school children. I went in, ate the breakfast (which was even better), drank their apple juice and was escorted again to a classroom. (Apparently I like apple juice). This time the teacher was waiting for me. It was an all female class and a male teacher. I started speaking to them about education and their future just as I did before and I spoke for about 15 minutes. I had their attention and I was so afraid that I would lose them I stopped and asked if there were any questions. When no one answered I put my coat on and the teacher said “Is that all you are going to speak for? 15 minutes?” I said “I am not sure what else to say.” So I asked the girls what they were working on. “Volcanoes and Rocks” they told me. I’m an Accountant – where was I going to go with that?

I asked them what subjects they liked. I heard Science, English and History. I had their attention again so I took off my jacket and stayed awhile longer. I told them about different careers they could have with those subjects. Chemist, Biologist, Journalist, Archeologist. I also spoke about math because that was my favorite subject. I told them that they need balance in their lives. I balance my Accounting career with drawing, painting, cooking, singing, dancing and other creative outlets. I spoke to them about having emotional balance since they are all female and will have emotional turmoil because of it. Women’s brains are doing 10 different things at once so balance of family and career and other environmental issues is very important.

At that point, I asked if there were any more questions. One girl asked me if I sang well. I told her I could hold my own so they asked me to sing for them. So I did and I was nervous. These are just kids, why was I nervous? I wanted them to like me and listen. I wanted to sing something they liked. They gave me songs but I didn’t know them so I sang Maroon 5 Wake Up Call. They liked it. Then they sang for me. At that point, something had changed. This wasn’t about me at all. This was about them. I wanted them to succeed and learn. I connected with them. I WAS “THEM” in my youth. I may have had money and support but I was also naïve and oblivious to the world outside of mine. I wanted these girls to go on and live prosperous lives, each and every one of them because they are each special. Each one became an individual that could do something great. They became people and they became my heroes. They are the future of my world and my children’s worlds.

After a few more questions, one girl raised her hand and said “What do you do if you are having problems at home and problems at school?” I realized then that I was giving them hope. I was the adult showing them how they can succeed. I told her to do the best she could with what she had and to keep pushing forward and doing what was good for her and what was going to make her happy. I told her that she will turn 18 and get to make her choices and to hold in there and things will get better. I told them all to make good choices or at least the best choices they could. My heart was breaking and my soul was filled with love and compassion.

When I walked out the door, the teacher asked me where I worked. He told me he wanted to call my boss and tell him what I great job I did. He also said he would ask for me specifically the next time they had a PAYBAC speaker. I told him, thanked him and left to go fill out my survey and go back to work. As I was driving to the office I realized that whether he called or not didn’t matter. I felt good from my head down to my toes.

My thoughts were changing and my insights were getting better.

It is about them. The children. Our future. Pass it on and PAYBAC.