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The Power is On the Inside

Two Coffee Beans Who Are Changing Their World

The minute I walked into PS6, an elementary school, in the South Bronx I knew it was a special place. Signs with encouraging messages and quotes adorned the walls. I felt the positive energy from the teachers and students and saw hope in their eyes. Students were engaged during my talk and asked brilliant, insightful questions afterwards.

I learned that while most of the kids were on reduced or free lunch and faced challenging circumstances at home, the school had provided a safe, nurturing and challenging environment for them to learn, grow and thrive. The school wasn't always like this but ever since Tiawana Perez, who started her education career as a school secretary, became the Principal she and her leadership team have created one of the best school cultures I've ever seen.

In talking with Tiawana Perez I learned that she was unwilling to let the circumstances and environment surrounding her school dictate their internal circumstances and expectations. While many educators in challenging environments feel powerless or stop caring, Tiawana and her staff were empowered to care even more and make a greater difference.

Unlike the carrot that gets weakened when put into hot water or the egg that gets hardened by it, Tiawana Perez was like a coffee bean who transformed her environment from the inside out. Just as the coffee bean transforms the water into coffee, she transformed her school culture into something completely different through her love, positivity, accountability and leadership.

Anthony Tucker is also a coffee bean who has refused to let circumstances define his life. He grew up surrounded by drugs and gangs and for years thought his only viable future occupation was to be a drug dealer. As he got older and saw his friends join gangs, die, or go to jail he knew he wanted more for his life and future. He didn't want a life and career that destroyed lives, neighborhoods and families. He wanted to be a leader that helped others prosper. His desire and path led him to become an educator and he's now an assistant principal at a preschool in the South Bronx.

Anthony has also written two children's books: A Rocky Start and Tied In, which teaches children how to tie a tie. He created a program at his Pre-K School that invites fathers to read to the students and also created mini libraries at playgrounds around the Bronx to encourage kids to read more.

After surviving his rough childhood, Anthony could have left his neighborhood but he decided to stay to be a role model for children. In doing so he's transforming his community like a coffee bean from the inside out.

It's easy to look around and say we don't have the resources we need to be successful. It's common for people to blame their circumstances and environment for why they haven't accomplished more. It's convenient to say that a lack of commitment from others is the reason for your lack of effort and results. But Tiawana, Anthony and other coffee beans like them demonstrate that you always have the power to create positive change.

You don't have to let your circumstances define you. You can define your circumstances. No matter how difficult the environment, you have the power to transform it.

Just like the coffee bean, the power is on the inside.

-Jon

Read Jon Gordon and Damon West's Wall Street Journal Bestselling Book...
The Coffee Bean: A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change

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