Because I Said I Would

We began this new school year, as we begin all school years, by setting goals. We talked to our kids about the importance of making goals, creating practical achievement plans and exploring areas to stretch and grow. The beginning of the school year is like our New Year’s celebration, we make resolutions, we make promises. Inspired by a summer course, Rachel Klem, one of our music teachers, began our Grade 8 team meeting with a simple challenge: What would it look like if we made a promise and kept it? 

Rachel shared the work of Alex Sheen, founder of the nonprofit Because I Said I Would, a social movement that poses the questions, “What if we kept a promise to ourselves to our kids to our community - what might it look like to move the world forward one promise at a time?”

For me this simple question is a very powerful one. This summer I lost my father. He was a transformative figure in my life and in the months and weeks leading up to his passing we spent a lot of time talking about what it meant to keep a promise. He himself was a product of a promise kept, a promise to his father to return to the Caribbean and use his skill and passion as a doctor to serve the people of the region. My father kept that promise and his legacy stands as a testament to it. As he and I talked, I realized that I too am his promise kept. In fact our lives are, in essence, a culmination of the promises we make and either keep or break. The promises we make to our children, to their lives and to the community they will grow up in is the foundation of their success. It is the meter against which they will measure themselves and the legacy they will inherit.

This year our eighth-graders have started thinking about their promises by articulating the simple phrase, “Because I said I would ...." You can see their work on the third floor stairwell landing at school: They pledge to do their homework, listen to their parents, be a leader not a follower, and use their voice for change.

In this Year of Community we invite you to also share your promise. Next week we will staff a table in the Cafe where you can fill out your “Because I said I would” card, take a photo with us and have your promise displayed as part of our school community. At a time when it is easy to feel hopeless to change the world around us, it is important to remember that we as individuals have the capacity to make an impact. As Alex Sheen says, “Sometimes we don’t need a miracle solution. Sometimes we just need people to do what they said they were going to do."

You can learn more about Alex Sheen and the “Because I Said I Would” campaign online. We hope you will join us in changing our world one promise at a time.

— Belinda Nicholson, Middle Division Director

The School at Columbia University

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