“Never give up. Always follow your dreams. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
As educators, parents, friends, colleagues, and human beings, we consistently use these words as ways to motivate, even inspire, others. However, without the ability to back the words up with concrete steps, actions, and movement, the vagueness of these “inspiring” phrases often do very little. Yes, it is important to keep going and persist in the face of challenges; however, it must be done in a thoughtful, smart way. Without purpose behind the perseverance, the words are just that—words.
Startup Weekend Education focuses on solving some of education’s most persistent challenges. The motto of the weekend—no talk, all action—is exactly the type of smart determination that allows dreams to become realities. Three years ago, an educator and graduate student blissfully unaware of the language and philosophies of entrepreneurship, I went to a Startup Weekend Education in Washington, DC. My intention was to observe and see what this whole “startup weekend” madness was about; I figured that I might meet some cool people and, if nothing else, get a free meal. I had no intention of pitching an idea and figured that I would probably just attend Friday and maybe, if I had time, Sunday. However, something magical happened in the car on the way to Georgetown. I was riding with three other teachers, talking about our days and expectations for the weekend. The driver, a “techie” teacher already using cutting-edge technology in his classroom, was planning on pitching a platform to better organize real time student data. The other teachers talked about some ideas and hopes that they had for the weekend. I sat quietly and began to think about an idea I had had for some time.
As a middle school literacy teacher, I saw that my students struggled to sit still for my extended block. I also knew, from a background in studying childhood obesity, that my students did not get enough physical movement. Then, I began thinking about what motivated me to stay active. I am by no means an athlete by design but have made a choice to continually sign up for races to keep myself active, even with my hectic lifestyle. I desired to find a way to bring purposeful fitness education to schools so that all students could experience the transformative power of fitness in their lives as I had in my own. So, in the back seat of a car filled with educators on the way to our first Startup Weekend experience, I gained the courage to conceptualize my idea and pitch it to a room of 100 strangers. It wasn’t the most polished pitch, but I did it. And I am so glad that I did.My idea, KidFit, made it to the top 10! I was beyond ecstatic. I went from being a casual observer to a full-on participant in the weekend. However, as I tried to persuade people to join my team, things became more challenging. I ended up joining forces with another team and was excited to figure out how to incorporate my idea with others. However, pretty soon into our Friday night brainstorming, it was obvious to me that my notion of KidFit was getting lost. I became incredibly disheartened and even contemplated leaving. But I didn’t. I kept at it. And, again, I am so glad that I did. KidFit did not necessarily take shape that weekend, but I did. I learned the power of entrepreneurship and the ability of a few committed people to join together and turn dreams into realities.
That weekend was the spark that grew into what is now my “full-time” job as founder of KidFit Academy. It is not an easy journey; every day requires patient perseverance with a clear focus and constant reflection. But I could not imagine doing anything else.