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The Power of Encouragement

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What to do?  The guest speaker had cancelled and the conundrum facing Andrew Baker was how to entertain 400 teenagers (ages 15 to 18) who had travelled from across the south to attend a one-week Teen Leadership Summit at Harding University.  The solution—he would ask the teens themselves how to solve the problem.  Yes, that was it; ask the teens what the biggest problem facing American Teens today is and how to solve it and present an action plan. Don’t tell them—ask them!   Most responses were as expected and included the usual issues of drugs, alcohol, and peer pressures.  However, the biggest ah-ha moment was that the majority of teens present agreed that the greatest problem facing American teens today was simply being discouraged.

A sense of pervasive discouragement seemed to resonate amongst all the youth present; and from the seeds of thought planted at their summit that day, The Encouragement Foundation at Harding University and the National Day of Encouragement (which was September 12) was established.  Last year, Andrew Baker reached out to Southwest with an idea about filming a documentary for the National Day of Encouragement to showcase teens doing wonderful things, and we agreed.   Southwest flew the film crew almost 9,000 miles through 14 cites in just seven days.  The result is an inspiring documentary film, 7 Days Across America; What is Right with the American Teenager.  Earlier this week, a group of the teens featured in the documentary flew to Dallas on Southwest Airlines to speak at local schools, visit our Headquarters, and to be honored at the documentary premier held on Monday night, September 13, at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.  I was lucky enough to attend, along with my Coworker, Casey Welch.

Encourage teens w Laura and Casey

Meeting the Teens was an honor and admittedly a humbling experience. As they shared their activities and plans for future endeavors, I had to remind myself to close my mouth, which was hanging open!  Imagine a seven-year old boy swimming the frigid waters between the Golden Gate Bridge, past Alcatraz, to the San Francisco shore.  He completed this not just once, but now at age 13, he’s done so over 15 times to raise funds and awareness of drowning prevention.  Another group of eight girls formed “One is Greater than None,” a nonprofit Foundation that raises funds to free enslaved children in Ghana, Africa and also for Rural Heath Care in the United States (  18-year-old Harvard Freshman Vinay Trivedi of Philadelphia founded a nonprofit organization called Senior Link.  Vinay teaches computer programs to the elderly as a tribute to his late grandfather and trains other teen volunteers to teach seniors also.  These are just a few examples of teens doing remarkable and inspiring things across the country—and the film, which has not yet been picked up for national release, features many more.

encourage teen at premier

After attending the documentary showing, and hearing their stories and seeing the enthusiasm and hope they shared for our future, I’m encouraged and hope to share that with you.  Any negative stereotypes which I may have previously harbored about American teenagers flew right out the window!   For me, simply being in their presence was inspiring and—yes—encouraging!  Imagine the impact we could have on our world, if we follow their example and put our heart muscles to work for the benefit of our planet and each other.  The message these remarkable teens share is that together we can embrace possibilities, seek solutions, and make the world a better place for us all.

Encourage teens at premier


Active Member
It sounds like the cancellation was a blessing in disguise :-) Paul In CRP
New Arrival
I would love to see the film and cannot imagine how inspired students across the country would be once they viewed it. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may be interested or even Oprah. I hope this timely piece does not sit on a shelf and collect dust.
Explorer C
I got to see this film, & it was really inspiring! I wish it could be shown in schools everywhere.
Explorer C
As a 30 year teacher and current writer of the new blog "Biddy Bytes: A Blog of Encouragement in a Difficult World" (at, I know all too well the pervasive impact of negativity on the young. This is one of the compelling reasons I began my blog--to focus on the people and issues who make a positive difference in the lives of many. It's not CNN's Heroes but my heroes and heroines are the everyday people across society who try to lead good lives..The young need to know there are plenty of this type out there (whom they can emulate), as opposed to narcissistic types who generally garner media attention. Please feel free to pass my blogsite along--It appears we are trying to do similar things. Colleen Kelly Mellor Website: