It was early, it was summer, and it was midweek, yet somehow I found myself driving to a church out in the middle of nowhere. The church didn't really look like any churches I had ever seen. Nevertheless I proceeded through the doors of the newly constructed Anchorage City Church. Little did I know then that this would be a start of an amazing adventure.
With my family I found my seat at a table, and enjoyed some rousing worship and prayer. This wasn't any ordinary church service, though... not in the least. This was a gathering of over 100 church leaders from our community. After praising in song, Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman got up to speak about the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Task Force and introduced the members who were present. I was reeling with excitement and very honored when I heard the Lieutenant Governor call my name! As an extension of President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI), www.whitehouse.gov/government/fbci/, its purpose is to level the playing field for all community organizations and organizations of faith seeking grants and other funds necessary for their work. This is a true milestone for America because this means that faith-based organizations can now have the same chance as large organizations to receive federal financial grants. FBCI is one of President Bush's top domestic priorities. I truly see this program changing not only the USA, but also the world!
As Alaska's youngest FBCI Task Force member I am looking for ways that this initiative can be implemented, helping people care for each other. This means many partnerships across the board, and what is more important in a partnership than communication?
You may be wondering how a 17-year-old homeschooler could be appointed to such a prestigious Task Force. The answer is very simple, communication! Communicate what you have a passion for. Communicate with legislators, businesses, organizations - the list is endless. Find what you want to change and/or make better, and see where your talents and strengths lie. Once you have ascertained this you must find people with like-minded goals and communicate your ideas to them.
An example: I want to make a difference in many areas of government. I communicated my thoughts and beliefs to Lieutenant Governor Leman, thus he knew I was determined, dedicated, and what role I could play to make a difference.
Competing in pageants is an excellent way to practice communicating skills. Writing and delivering speeches and talking with judges has benefited me tremendously.
I happen to have a particular passion for helping people with disabilities; my brother is disabled and I know first hand what it takes to help people achieve greatness in their abilities rather than dwelling on their disabilities. In addition to my work with Special Olympics, I have found an excellent way to support this belief and partner it with my pro-life belief through Christian Homes Adopting Special Kids (CHASK), www.chask.org. CHASK is an organization pairing families/mothers of special needs children with Christian homes wishing to adopt them. This gives families/mothers an alternative to abortion. CHASK also supports families raising children with special needs and is part of Tom and Sherry Bushnell's work to support challenged homeschoolers through NATional cHallenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN, www.nathhan.com). CHASK has named me a National Spokesperson, and I am working to further their goals of having children placed in loving Christian homes rather than being aborted. (See Newsshort on page 6 - editor)
Through the FBCI Task Force I am hoping to find grants for organizations such as CHASK because President Bush wants to help fund the social-services aspect of what faith groups do. The President has stressed, however, he does not want faith groups to change what they are doing and how they do it. Again, communication is the key. I communicated with CHASK what my feelings and beliefs are, and I am continuing to communicate what CHASK is doing in order to receive grants to further their tremendous work.
Recently, I had the opportunity to submit an abstract about CHASK to the Southcentral Foundation's Family Wellness Warriors Initiative, Community and Faith-Based Agency Conference. My hope was to communicate to others the amazing messages of this organization. I also submitted abstracts for Homeschoolers of Alaska and Spirit of Youth (you may remember this organization from my column in magazine #54). The key to writing all of the abstracts was communication. I had to communicate the needs, my goals on meeting the needs, and how I thought the solutions could be implemented.
In August of 2003, it finally came time to attend the conference. I was very excited. My Homeschoolers of Alaska abstract was accepted to be presented at the conference! Another especially wonderful bit of news: I would get to talk one-on-one with Robert J. Polito, Director for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services from Washington, D.C., about CHASK and Spirit of Youth.
As you see, opportunities for communication come in many different formats. Not only is it imperative to be able to communicate your ideas verbally, but it is equally important to communicate your ideas in writing.
At the conference I was honored to listen to talks by Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman, United States Senator Lisa Murkowski, and the Family Wellness Warriors Initiative Committee members. I learned a lot by listening to these very accomplished speakers and would greatly recommend other homeschoolers getting involved in their communities. Go and attend conferences, and join organizations. Basically, just find opportunities to listen to distinguished speakers; you will learn an immense amount from just observing them. After the aforementioned talks it was time for me to give my presentation. I was pleased to hear later that so many people valued my ideas and shared my goals, including Robert J. Polito. Shortly after the presentations were given Mr. Polito spoke about his role in the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. I was very inspired by his speech concerning the fact that the President is so committed to making this work, leveling the playing field for all organizations to have a chance at obtaining federal funds to help those in need.
After the conference I was able to talk with Mr. Polito about CHASK and Spirit of Youth. He was very interested in both organizations, and said that CHASK was exactly what his department needed. I was very pleased to present Mr. Polito with a copy of Practical Homeschooling magazine (issue #49). He was very happy to receive the magazine because he homeschools his own children. See how communication is the key? Finding common goals and experiences with people is an important ingredient in effective communication. Happily, this experience let me communicate to him how wonderful Practical Homeschooling magazine is!
Now that I've talked about public speaking as communication, I think I can guess what the majority of you are thinking. "Me get up in public and speak in front of a bunch of people, NO WAY!?!" Well, I have heard that one of people's greatest fears is public speaking, but I have an amazing way to combat this fear. Simply put, faith is the antidote to the fear. If you have faith in God and what you believe is important, you will find the courage within yourself to spread your message to the world. Keep in mind bad things happen when good people do nothing; don't let your fear keep you from making a difference. God has a plan for your life; listen to His plan and communicate it to others.
It can be hard to know where to go and who to talk to about your ideas. Look for something you have in common with someone or some organization. Remember you can always ask questions. Even if you don't know if someone is interested in helping you reach the same goal, it is important to ask. They can say "No," but wonderfully they could say a very emphatic "Yes!"
I feel the greatest gift of insight I can give you is to stick to what you believe and communicate it in everything you do. Be what you believe, and change the world for the better!
In closing, I would like to share with you some important messages I heard at the conference. Speak from your heart and people will hear your message in their heart. Where is the best place to speak to people? Speak to them where they are, talk with everyone. When is the best time to speak with people and make a difference? Now, today, your work begins from this moment on! ¡Vaya con Dios! (Go with God!)
Was this article helpful to you?
Subscribe to Practical Homeschooling today, and you'll get this quality of information and encouragement five times per year, delivered to your door. To start, click on the link below that describes you:
USA Librarian (purchasing for a library)
Outside USA Individual
Outside USA Library