Tag Archives: Purpose

Life Prep Not Just College Prep

In my November blog post, I highlighted how Cole Jones’ ’14 post Parish experiences demonstrate the boundless mindsets of our first wave of graduates.

In January, Cole returned to campus and took questions from the juniors in my class, all of whom are members of the Leadership Institute ’18 cohort. It was perfect! With no advanced prompting from me, Cole shared his personal mission statement (something my students had just been asked to do) and espoused how leading a life of possibility requires one to develop a working relationship with fear (messaging I have shared this year with all students in my monthly chapel talks).

leadershipclass_crop“Cole speaking to us today was probably one of the most impactful moments I’ve had at Parish…He grabbed my attention from the beginning when he started to talk about working on a 67 foot schooner…The way he carries himself with his values and adventurous attitude is inspiring…I think that Cole helped us realize the importance of our personal credo. To be honest, a couple of weeks ago I didn’t see the point to the personal statement/credo, but now I see it as something I can use to guide me. I have come straight home to open my laptop and revise my credo making sure it’s what I want it to be…”

Member of Leadership Institute cohort’18 reflecting on visit from Cole Jones ’14.

Every school should be blessed with graduates like Cole and Emily Sher ’13. Whenever Emily is in Dallas, she stops by for a visit. Emily understands the power of networks and mentors in today’s complex global society, so she diligently cultivates ongoing relationships with her Parish teachers.

Emily also represents the best of what Parish seeks to produce. She’s a learned and intelligent person to be sure, but Emily is also defined by her tenacious work ethic, refined relationship building skills, and indefatigable drive.

Emily’s path to powerful internship experiences called on her to evidence each of these traits and more. She had chosen the University of Miami over an early acceptance at Wake Forest (I still remember our conversations weighing that decision!) because she embraced the challenge of a more cosmopolitan, diverse city. She has thrived at Miami, but financial firms like UBS and Morgan Stanley, which had become the focus of her career path, did not recruit directly at the University.

emilysher_2Undeterred, Emily took the initiative to apply to the Bermont/Carlin Scholars Program within Miami’s Business School. She was one of 20 students accepted after a two-part interview. As a Scholar, she completed a team-based summer project learning more about one of the major financial institutions, took a fall recruiting trip to New York to hone interviewing and networking skills, and ultimately landed a prized internship in Manhattan with Morgan Stanley this past summer.

At the conclusion of her 10 week internship focused on institutional wealth management, Emily was offered a full time position with Morgan Stanley which she will begin after graduation. Needless to say, that was an exciting exit interview (and productive summer internship) for Ms. Sher!

ParishBridgeLast February in this space, I introduced ParishBridge, one component of which is a professional experience of 15-50 hours depending on the senior’s course schedule.

Through ParishBridge, we are introducing our oldest students to the power of internships, network building and learning beyond the classroom. In an amazing and unexpected twist in ParishBridge’s first year, nearly 10 percent of the class of 2016 turned ParishBridge professional experiences last spring into summer internships (many of them paid!) last summer. In our second year, members of the class of 2017 – observing their peers in last year’s pioneer class – have been poised to capitalize on this unique opportunity. Already, they’ve investigated potential professional experiences with the likes of Disney, the Dallas Mavericks, the Perot Museum and Top Golf.


Combined with ParishConnect (which I highlighted last month), we are building a powerful and unique set of services. Together, they will equip our oldest students and young alumni with the skills and experiences they need to establish powerful networks – ones which will be essential to their thriving in the “complex global society.”

I anticipate that boundless futures, like those of Cole and Emily, will be the norm for Parish graduates to come, and I can’t wait to watch their individual journeys unfold!

Parish Alumni: Boundless Thinkers in Real Time


The Apostle Paul faced quite a challenge.

A dutiful follower of the crucified Jesus, and a leader in his own right, Paul had discovered a fractured and fickle community of early Christians. Those Paul sought to lead to the teachings of Jesus kept falling back into old habits. Paul penned the people of Ephesus a letter meant to grab their attention. In it, he urged them to “take off” their old self, consumed as it was with worldly attitudes and actions, and put on a “new self” tailored for a relationship with God – one which reflected Jesus’ dispositions of compassion, kindness and meekness.

My First Monday letters and chapel homilies typically emerge from a theme. This year, that theme is “boundless;” more specifically, what it takes to embrace a mindset of possibility, hope and growth. I used this verse from Paul in my opening chapel talk to students in September, imploring them to envision how they might put on a “new self” by the conclusion of school in May. Successive homilies have extended the theme, looking in part at how boundless thinking reflects an attitude and how it requires us to forge a working relationship with fear.

My First Monday letters have offered complementary riffs on the boundless theme. In August, I shared insights derived from my summer reading. Each book reminded me why unleashing limitless possibilities for each child is a center-point of our Reimagine initiative. In September, I wondered what milieu produces individuals who lead boldly around and through obstacles. And last month, I highlighted a handful of the boundless thinkers who inspire our entrepreneurial work.

homecomingOur recent homecoming presented me with the precious opportunity to engage firsthand with living examples of the boundless theme: our alumni. As I move deeper into my tenure at Parish, spending time visiting with, learning from and continuing to mentor our graduates represents one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job. In their emerging life narratives, these young people (remember, the oldest Parish Episcopal graduates are only 26!) demonstrate what leading lives of possibility and growth look like. Quite often, they can trace their boundless disposition to their time at Parish.

Beginning with this piece on a recent graduate still in college and continuing later this spring with the profile of an “older” alum already tackling the “complex global society,” I’ll highlight how our alumni have answered Paul’s challenge to “put on a new self.”

Parish graduates presently in college share common experiences. Navigating new relationships – whether with a freshman roommate or through the fraternity/sorority system, for example – present opportunities for self-definition and value identification. Of course, the exploration of new ideas and exchange of perspectives with bright classmates and thought-provoking professors expand their horizons as well.

But increasingly, the most differentiating and liberating experiences for Parish graduates in college happen outside the classroom. Particularly in their choice of global travel opportunities and the verve with which they pursue internships, our alumni demonstrate their acumen as boundless thinkers.
colej14_textFor Cole Jones ’14, global travel has amplified his learning experiences post Parish. Cole spent the final three months of his sophomore year at USC studying in New Zealand. Of course, studying abroad represents a rite of passage for many college students. Cole, however, differentiated his global experience by embracing a boundless mindset. He constructed a self-directed excursion for himself and a travelling companion which took them to Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia in the weeks preceding their arrival in New Zealand.

Cole’s unique experience, one in which he charted his own journey, chose what he would see when and who he would meet along the way, proved to be formative. By stepping adventurously and curiously beyond the known, Cole discovered a worldview he will carry into his future as an impactful leader. “Understand first, judge second,” is how Cole explained it to me; his journey, he noted, “shattered the preconceived notions created by the boundaries of my own city and country of upbringing.”

colej14mtntopIf his horizon-broadening experiences beyond Parish have taught him anything, it has been the very relevance and applicability of the “balanced, thoughtful” mindset which Cole says Parish instilled within him. He sees now how “daily chapel and mentorship opportunities,” both with adults within the community but also between students in activities such as Legacy, sharpened his reflectiveness and relational skills. Such attributes, Cole is already learning, will benefit him in a complex global society fueled by collaborative thinking and flattening hierarchies.

Cole returned from his global travel to an internship experience at Stanford University this past summer. He leveraged his USC network – once again demonstrating the importance of the relational capacities cultivated at Parish – then learned how to “communicate with scientists who were a lot smarter than me” as he did heat and structural testing on the largest digital camera in the world. It will be used in the Large Synaptic Survey Telescope which will deploy in Chile to study the transient night sky.

We are so proud of Cole and our other alumni whose journey and discovery of becoming their new selves unfolds before us in such inspiring, exciting and boundless ways!

School With a Purpose

My effort to engage our community in reflection about meaning and purpose shifted to the students this month with my September 4th chapel homily at Midway.  I used Ephesians 2:10 as my scriptural inspiration:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I also wove Inside Out, Pixar’s summer blockbuster, through my message.  What follows is an extended excerpt from my message.

“I saw a fantastic movie this summer; a Pixar picture called Inside Out.  Anybody see it?

If you didn’t, it’s the story of Riley, a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Minnesota girl.  Her world turns upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions are co-stars in this movie. We get to see inside Riley as Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness try to guide her through this difficult, life-changing event.

Inside Out offers so many themes I’d love to explore with you, but I’ve settled on a couple observations for today specific to this scene and connected to the start of the school year.

The first observation is the simplest:  your school year will be filled with the emotions which starred in the movie – and likely some others. 


You will experience joy in growing friendships and new successes;

You will confront fear as you meet challenges – perhaps from being a new student here or trying out for a team or a play for the first time;

You will be disgusted – perhaps by something a classmate does, or your own performance in a game or concert, or by the food in the Commons; 

You will be angry – at a teacher for a grade or a constructive criticism he or she makes, perhaps, or a friend for a poorly timed comment;

And, yes, you will be sad.  We are a community built on relationships.  Relationships are complicated and don’t always go as we would hope.  Our feelings will be hurt. We may feel lonely or left out.  Other times, we will fall short of goals and our best intentions and as a result will feel blue.

If you remember from the movie, Joy draws a circle around sadness trying to limit her impact on Riley that first day of school.  As it turns out, (no spoiler alert necessary!), sadness plays a most important role in helping Riley confront the challenge of moving to San Francisco.   InsideOut_02

For you this school year, the question is not whether you will feel a range of emotions, but how you will manage them.

Must all your days be filled with joy for you to consider them good days?  If so, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Can you channel anger at yourself or others positively to reach a better outcome, or does anger linger with you and make achieving a positive resolution impossible? 

Do you allow your sadness to set you back for days, or can you find the fortitude we talk about in our ParishLEADS  framework to make tomorrow a better day?

Manage the emotions that you experience this year rather than trying to avoid them or limit their impact.  Recognize that each emotion has a purpose and a role to play as you become your best self.

Purpose: This theme from movie represents my second and final thought as the year begins.

In the film, each emotion had a job to do. Each emotion had a purpose.

What is your purpose?

In our reading today, Paul teaches the Ephesians, some of the earliest Christians, that they are God’s handiwork and that God has prepared work for them to do as Christians, living into His teachings and modeling them for others.  He suggests, even, that the work each person was born to do has been prepared for them in advance.


This raises and interesting question for you to ponder. You are God’s handiwork.  What do you think he will call you to do one day?  How might you impact the world for better one day?  What gifts, abilities, and talents do you have that could do some good in this world?

These are big questions.  Certainly too big for today and perhaps too big for this year.  But we can start here at least.

What is the purpose of you attending school?  Why are you here at Parish and what do you plan to do on purpose to make this year a meaningful one for you?

If I asked you to choose what your purpose is in coming to school from the following multiple choice options, I wonder what the answer would be:

A. Get good grades to make my parents happy

B. Get good grades so I get into the college of my choice and then the job of my dreams!

C. I have no purpose in being here; my parents will not let me stay home and play video games all day

D. To be with friends

E. To play sports/be on stage/sing and dance…

HaveToWhile you might choose from several of these options, and all of them have some legitimacy, I fear sometimes that this might be the likely response:

 Just like Joy drew a circle around sadness to try and limit her impact, I think this answer draws too close a circle around you and separates you from a higher purpose for your work at Parish.

If you see school as just something to survive; if they only “good parts” of school are the subjects you like, or recess, or PE; if school’s purpose is simply about checking assignments completed and grades received, I’d ask you to reflect more deeply. 

In fact, I will commit much of my homily time this year talking about your purpose and our purpose as a school.

In so doing, I would propose one more answer for my multiple choice question:


When you think of your time at Parish as having this larger purpose, you erase the circle and open yourself to a whole new set of possibilities:


We will pick up here when I am with you next.

For now, remember. Indeed, you are here for a purpose beyond surviving until May when summer begins.  You are God’s handiwork.  He has made you – uniquely and particularly – for a reason. He will call you to impact this world in some way.  You are at Parish to begin discovering just how you will change the world, so do commit to doing school with a purpose.”