My daughter. She’s a great kid, the kind of kid any parent would be proud of. She has participated in lots of activities over the years, but nothing really stuck. She tried gymnastics, but could never really do a cartwheel. Swimming–the water was always too chilly. Soccer–fear of the ball hitting her in the face and smashing her glasses. She is still taking piano lessons, but she makes that exasperated face every time we ask her to practice. You get the gist. The constant throughout her life is her boundless imagination and that she loves creating stories. As she grows, like any adolescent, she doesn’t always share the ups and downs in her life, but nevertheless I persist to stay connected. 

I was introduced to Thrively through a colleague of mine who had just started working there. I was unaware of the experience platform, she merely elaborated on the journey of the founder, the brilliant minds she was collaborating with, and how Thrively would change the game of education. As I began to explore the Thrively platform, my colleague urged me to join the team and take a different path in my career. “We are going to change the world for the better,” she said. 

It was then I heard the front door open then slam, and Emma came bounding into my office.

“How was school?” 
“Fine” she reluctantly responded
“Did you learn anything interesting?” I inquired
“Not really” (a typical response from a 13 year-old)
“You should ask for a refund,”  and yes I do believe I am hilarious in a dad-joke kind of way.

Emma saw my computer screen and asked what I was doing, and I let her know I was exploring Thrively-a site that believes in students as individuals and their unique genius.

“It’s for students to learn about their strengths and interests; they’re going to change the world…” I started to say. 
Then she said nonchalantly, “Oh yeah, we did that at school.”
I asked, “What do you mean you did that at school?”
How exciting! A deep, meaningful father-daughter conversation was about to take place! 
“You know. Whatever..” she mumbled, and walked off. 

I called her back in to tell me more. After some coaxing, she explained that her favorite teacher, Ms. Duff, was teaching an SEL class for middle schoolers. That was all news to me. She and her classmates were assigned passion projects for their second semester. Thing number two that was news to me. But then something happened. She began telling me about how she took the Thrively Strength Assessment and it “knew all about her.” 

“It said, I’m a ‘master storyteller and a wizard of words’. How does it know me so well? I decided for my passion project that I want to get my stories published.” 

And boy did she have stories. I’ve kept them all from when she was a little kid and first learned how to hold a crayon. The Great Banana Caper, The Monkey in the Top Hat, and The Mermaid Princess were some of my favorites. Sometimes she’d dictate the stories and I’d write the words. Then she’d illustrate the pages. Such great memories. 

So that was the beginning of her passion project. What she found out in the subsequent weeks was that it’s really not that easy to become a published author. Publishers don’t just print whatever you want them to. Everyone can’t just become the next J.K Rowling. I think it’s mandatory that you have to get shut down by dozens of magazines and publishing houses before you hit it big. You might even have to live in your car for a period of time and eat cat food. I’m not sure how that helps, but it totally does. My daughter looked into literary magazines for kids, she submitted stories to dozens of publications, and she talked to friends and friends of friends of people in the publishing world. Nothing. 

Usually that’s where things would end with my daughter. But this time she had an unusual reaction to the setbacks. After what seemed like a frustrating experience, she just turned to me one day and said, “No problem. I’ll just publish them myself.” 

Listen up everyone!! This is what  learning is all about! Finding your strengths and passions and pursuing them! Overcoming obstacles and being persistent! Coming up with new solutions when you hit roadblocks! My daughter was undaunted. She reminded me of Bluto, John Belushi’s character in Animal House: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Heck no! And it ain’t over now, ’cause when the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’. Who’s with me? Let’s go! Come on!”

She was on a mission. 

Her passion project took a new twist. She decided to create her own writing contest at her school. She designed her own website, she got teacher sponsors to help students edit their stories, she got parents to volunteer to be judges, she worked with the principal to market the contest to students, she got the PTA to pony up some prize money, and she came up with the theme and rules. The best part was that all of the stories were “published” on her website and made into a printed book that was available for sale. Now all of her classmates could be published authors. 

My daughter is fortunate to have had lots of opportunities. Everyday I think about kids who don’t have those opportunities and who don’t have someone to support them in pursuit of their passions. Through my daughter’s eyes, I was able to see how Thrively and a caring teacher can change a kid’s life for the better. So who’s with me? Let’s go! Come on! Let’s change the world!

Author: Michael Hurley