As I stood at the door of the Next Step to Success Stepping Up Ceremony on that warm evening in May, I watched the cars park and admired the bustling visitors at the farmer's market next door, taking the time to say hello to their neighbors, selecting the perfect tomatoes for their summer salads, and slowly walking home in the rays of the setting sun. Though a simple moment for most, it is a reminder for the Next Step to Success (NSTS) team that our mission is not just about the youth and families we serve but also about the future of the city where they live. The youth that we lovingly welcome each day after school and all day in the summer are the future of this historic city. They want to succeed; they can succeed, and they deserve the opportunity to earn success.
At Next Step to Success, we often speak of Angela Duckworth’s theory of One Hard Thing. The idea that if one can focus on a single challenge and the journey to overcome that obstacle, they will have a roadmap in the future to overcome difficult times. The teens at Next Step to Success are taught that young people who foster character traits such as grit, resilience, and a growth mindset are better prepared for the expected mistakes they will face in the future. Mistakes are not meant to lock away hope or end dreams; mistakes are learning moments that teach us the path toward success.
As families began to take their seats, the stories of success from the year could be heard among the chatter: how their child’s favorite activity was wooden boat building or how learning to sail was something they had never considered before. Awards were given for a variety of accomplishments, including participating in the Invention Convention, which led to several students being asked to present their inventions to leaders in the industry, and the brave participants of Project Kaponya, which allowed the young people at NSTS to discuss how violence in their community affects them. The Norfolk youth we serve were not afraid of One Hard Thing; they just needed a safe and nurturing environment to identify the challenge. Their personal determination was always behind the scenes, ready to tackle any obstacle! We were just there along the way with an exceptional program to facilitate the opportunities, encourage them, and advocate for them.
NSTS is a member of The James Barry-Robinson Institute, and I often think about Mr. Robinson’s story. He was a man of grit, resilience, and had a growth mindset. I believe he would be proud of the legacy he left for the city that he loved and the work that is being done to ensure his mission of improving the lives of children and their families continues.
To donate or learn more about becoming a community partner for Next Step to Success, please visit our website: nextsteptosuccess.org