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For September, our character focus is on respect which means we honor the thoughts, feelings, and diversity of others. We hold in high regard the property of others and of the school.


I found out years ago that my ancestry from my father’s side goes back to the Cherokee nation.  They and other Native Americans called respect “a basic law of life,” one that helps us get along and live together peacefully.  Respect all people and all things for their intrinsic worth.  Every person, place and thing has value.


There are so many ways to demonstrate respect:  allowing others to speak without interruption and actually listening to what they are saying.  Greeting people each day with a smile and with kindness even to those people you don’t know.  Acknowledging and understanding that other people have thoughts and feelings that may be different than ours and it’s OK.  We can all learn from one another if we just take the time to listen and understand one another.  We're not always going to agree, but when we disagree we can always do so respectfully.


Sometimes you run into conflict where you may feel someone else has disrespected you. Quite often I hear from students, "well if they disrespect me I’m going to disrespect them."  In situations such as this, someone needs to be the “bigger person" as my father would say.  Find a peaceful and respectful resolution to the conflict.  Think to yourself, what can I do in this situation and still maintain dignity and respect. If a resolution cannot be reached, agree to disagree or ask a caring adult to assist you.


My parents taught me the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 


Remember that respect is earned by giving it first. When you model respect toward others you are setting the example of what you expect in return.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 12, 2021 at 3:18 PM
  

Loyalty means we demonstrate pride and allegiance to our country, community, school, family, and peers. In short, it means to show you are there for someone else at all times good and bad, up and down. I want to share with you a short personal story about my family’s history that speaks to the very essence of loyalty.


The date was February 4, 1945. The crew of the USS Barbel - ss316, a submarine, was struck by bombs from Japanese aircraft several miles off the coast of the Philippines and all were lost, killed in action. This event hits home for me because my great uncle Ellis Henry Stevens was a Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd class aboard that submarine.  I never met my great uncle, but his youngest sister, my great aunt Mae Stevens made sure I knew who he was while I was growing up as a kid.  She often shared pictures and stories about him from their childhood and read many of the letters he wrote home while he was in service. 


My great uncle was a loyal serviceman to our country, but he was also fiercely loyal to the family back home.  He was the oldest of four children and joined the Navy in 1939 at the beginning of World War II.  During his time in the service, he would write home to his family on a regular basis and would wire money home monthly so that my great aunt Mae, the baby of the family, could stay in school.  My grandfather and his other brother worked the farms to make ends meet, but never finished school while my great aunt was able to go on and graduate.  Thanks in large part to my great uncle Ellis’s loyalty to family.


Shortly after he was presumed dead on February 19, 1946, his family received the Purple Heart and a memorial notification letter signed by President Harry Truman for his sacrifice and service to our country.  I am now the proud owner of his purple heart and memorial notification letter as well as all the letters he wrote my great aunt.  One day I will write a book about him based on his letters to her and his loyalty.  His story is the legacy that I can pass on to my children and future grandchildren.  What will be your story of loyalty?


I encourage you to reflect on who or what you are loyal to and to express your gratitude to those who are loyal to you.   I will close with this quote from renowned film director Mario Puzo

“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On May 30, 2021 at 2:16 PM
  

The following story about Franklin D. Roosevelt and the challenges he faced en route to the presidency is a prime example of perseverance.


The year was 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who would go on to become the 32nd president of the United States was diagnosed with polio.  A disease that would leave him paralyzed from the waist down and the root cause of other health problems he would endure.


FDR had served as a member of the New York Senate and Assistant Secretary of the Navy up to that point. He was not about to let polio keep him from continuing his career in politics. There was much more that he wanted to accomplish. Despite the lack of a cure for polio, he continuously worked on rehabilitating.  He even established a rehabilitation center in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1925.


He never gave up the hope that he could walk again throughout the rest of his life. He never let polio stand in the way of his dream to be President, so he persevered through his disease to eventually become the 32nd President of the United States.


Prior to becoming President, at the urging of a political colleague and despite his physical limitations, FDR ran for governor of New York and would win the office by a mere one percent margin in 1928. As New York was the most populous state at the time, serving as governor would set him up for the next presidential election. FDR would serve two terms as governor before running for President in 1932.


When FDR was President during the Great Depression he did not let polio stop him from opening up banks, getting more jobs for people, making the New Deal, and other things that lessened the effects of the Great Depression. As World War II started, he was still battling polio and other illnesses, but that didn’t stop him either. His cause and purpose as a leader kept him going. His response to Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 reignited America’s resolve and courage and America quickly realized it could win in the war. 


FDR was absolutely the epitome for perseverance. He had the grit to fight through polio, the Great Depression, and World War II to lead America back to its feet. During his fourth term as president, polio finally got the best of FDR as he passed away April 12, 1945 at the end of World War II.  But FDR had accomplished his mission.


You see perseverance is all about your mindset. It’s about having an unwavering faith, a determination, and a strong belief in yourself that no matter what obstacles you come up against, you can get through it. 


In life, you will encounter many challenges and possibly defeat one way or another. Like FDR, you can persevere through those challenges and defeats to achieve your life’s mission if you just have the fortitude to keep fighting for it. And never, ever give up.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On May 02, 2021 at 4:37 PM
  

For April, our emphasis will be on compassion which means we show empathy and concern for others. We have a desire to serve locally and globally.


Compassion is a genuine sympathy for hardship or suffering that other people are experiencing, and a desire to ease that pain. The following story I believe hits at the very heart of compassion.


The year was 1944 and it was Christmas Eve, during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany.  A young boy, and his mother were alone in their cabin in the forest, safe from the icy cold, and they thought, from the American enemy soldiers hiding in the countryside.

 

Mrs. Vincken and her son, Fritz, heard someone at the door. She opened it to find a group of US soldiers. One had been wounded. She set aside her fears of execution for helping the enemy and let the soldiers in her house. She did not speak English, and they spoke no German, but they were able to talk in French.

 

Not long after the soldiers had settled in, there was a loud and sharp knock at the door. Mrs. Vincken was afraid that it might be German soldiers, so she opened the door carefully. She was right. There was a very high likelihood that if the German soldiers had no mercy, that she would be shot for harboring the Americans, even if it had been only for those few moments.

 

The brave woman stepped outside and told the German soldiers that she would serve them a hot dinner but that it was Christmas Eve, and she had guests. She asked the Germans to leave their guns in her shed because, even though they might not like her visitors, Christmas Eve was a night of peace. She then took the guns of the Americans and hid them away as well.


The German soldiers, having honored her request, stepped inside. The atmosphere was awkward at first, until one of the German soldiers, a medic, began dressing the wounds of one of the Americans.

 

Fritz Vincken recounted the incident in an interview with WII History Network: “Then we added more ingredients to our stew and invited these enemies to sit down together for dinner. One of the German soldiers, an ex-medical student, fixed the wounded American and then Mother read from the Bible and declared that there would be at least one night of peace in this war — Christmas night in the Ardennes Forest. After a good night’s rest, they said their goodbyes and went on their way. The German soldiers told the Americans, which way their camp was and gave them a compass to find their way.”

 

Fritz credits his mother’s personality and generosity when asked why the German soldiers did not turn her in. “I think it was my mom’s personality and her persuasiveness to have them rest for one peaceful night. There was a place to stay, hot food, and shelter from the cold and they appreciated that.”

 

Mrs. Vincken never saw any of those soldiers again, but Fritz eventually was reunited with two of the Americans. He now lives in Hawaii.

 

Said Fritz, “Many years have gone since that bloodiest of all wars, but the memories of that night in the Ardennes never left me. The inner strength of a single woman, who, by her wits and intuition, prevented potential bloodshed, taught me the practical meaning of the words: ‘Goodwill Toward Mankind’ . . .  I remember mother and those seven young soldiers, who met as enemies and parted as friends, right in the middle of the battle of the Bulge.”


Compassion arises through empathy and is characterized by actions. Mrs. Vincken’s compassion that night brought comfort and peace to a small group of men known to be enemies. Her example not only had an impact on those soldiers, but it would have a profound and lasting effect on her son. You see a simple act of compassion such as providing a hot meal to strangers, showing a smile, or just giving a kind word to someone you don’t even know can make a world of difference in someone’s life and in yours!


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Apr 08, 2021 at 4:50 PM
  

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Jordan in 1985 at UNC basketball school. As a lifelong Tar Heel fan, I followed Jordan's career at UNC, then on to Chicago, even though I'm a Lakers fan, as well as outside of basketball. I believe his journey in basketball and in life speaks to the very essence of confidence.


The year was 1978, Michael Jordan tried out for his high school’s varsity basketball team, but at 5’11 he was told he was too short to play at that level as a sophomore and remained on junior varsity. He worked constantly on his game to improve his skills and during his JV season would score 40 or more points in several games.


Over the next summer, he would grow four inches. He spent countless hours working on his basketball skills. The next two years of high school he would average over 25 points per game, over 12 rebounds, and six assists per game. He was named a high school All-American and played in the annual McDonald’s All-American game where he scored 30 points.


He was highly recruited by several major universities with prominent basketball programs such as Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia, but ultimately landed at North Carolina.


He had a phenomenal freshmen year. He would hit the game winning shot against Georgetown in the national championship game and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. The work he put into honing his skills is what gave him the confidence to take that monumental shot against Georgetown. Jordan later described this shot as the major turning point in his basketball career.

Never being satisfied, Jordan continued to put in the work to get stronger and more consistent in overall skills. The next two years, he was selected to the NCAA All-America First Team. He would be honored with the Naismith and Wooden awards in 1984, his last year of college basketball.


That same spring Jordan was selected as the third pick in the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. He would go on to a storied career in the NBA winning 6 NBA titles with the Bulls and several Player of the Year awards. He is arguably the greatest player of all-time or as you all have come to know, the GOAT.


What separated Michael from other players was the level of confidence he developed. He worked constantly on perfecting his skills, growing his knowledge of the game, and enhancing his thought processes. Because he had worked so much on his game, he knew he was going to make the next shot or make the next stop against an opposing player. He learned to turn failures into positives. One of his most notable quotes describes how he thinks, “I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” He developed a perspective that his failures were really stepping stones to another level of success and his confidence grew as he overcame his setbacks and failures. 


What we learn from Michael is that confidence is linked to our attitude and our actions.  The attitude of failing forward, never giving up, and staying consistent in your actions toward skills and knowledge you want to gain.  Regardless of what skill sets you’re trying to develop, it will take real concerted and consistent efforts on your part to develop that kind of confidence. It will take overcoming setbacks and delaying gratification for better results and ultimately greater success.  You just have to be patient with the process just like Mike!


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Mar 06, 2021 at 4:14 PM
  

We generally think of initiative as recognizing and doing what needs to be done before being asked. And that's true. But initiative is so much more. Initiative believes in the possibilities of opportunity; it sees opportunity where others see barriers. Initiative means going the extra mile.


The following story is a great example of how taking initiative can change the course of one’s life and the lives of others.


The year was 1949. Dorothy Johnson Vaughan became the first African American supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the predecessor of NASA) when she was promoted to manager of the West Area Computers. This work group was made up mostly of African American female mathematicians who worked at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Vaughan’s title opened the door for her to collaborate with other well-known computer operators and gave her access to see future plans of the organization. 


In 1958, the NACA officially became NASA. During that time, Vaughan realized that NASA was going to move into machine computing with computer programming. They began bringing in large computers from IBM.  Seeing that these computers would likely replace her and her team of mathematicians, she took the initiative to learn FORTRAN programming language.  She not only taught herself this complex language, but she also took the time to teach her team.


In 1961 she officially became supervisor of the digital programming center and brought her team with her.  She made significant contributions to the space program through her work on the Scout Launch Vehicle Program and the launch of John Glenn into orbit. Had Dorothy Vaughan not taken the initiative to teach herself and others this new language, she and her team would have been fired. The Scout Launch Vehicle Program may have taken longer to get off the ground. It may have taken NASA longer to get man into orbit. Her initiative changed the course of her life, her team, and essentially that of the NASA space program.


Vaughan’s work and the work of Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson were featured in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures


What can we learn from Vaughan’s story? She saw an opportunity and seized the moment by taking initiative. She saw possibilities where others may have seen barriers and she went the extra mile to affect change.


As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have mastered, you will never grow.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Feb 07, 2021 at 1:40 PM
  

This month, our character focus is on responsibility which means being held accountable for how our words and actions affect others as well as ourselves.


The following story from the Titanic demonstrates the great lengths people have gone to fulfill their responsibilities.


The year was 1912 and all the talk in the world, especially in Europe was about the Titanic, a luxury ship designed to ferry people back and forth across the Atlantic.  However, as you know on its maiden voyage, the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg just before midnight on April 14, 1912 and would subsequently sink to the bottom of the Atlantic at 2:20 a.m. on April 15. 


There were 2,224 passengers on board with over 900 crew.  But, there were only enough lifeboats to carry about 1100 people. The decision-makers for Titanic irresponsibly decided that because the ship was considered unsinkable, they didn’t need as many.  They opted for more deck space rather than keeping the safety of all passengers and crew in mind.  That decision cost lives as over 1500 people perished that night into the icy Atlantic Ocean.


Of the 900 crew members, 25 of them were engineers responsible for maintaining the inner-workings of the ship including the pumps designed to control any possible flooding. 

As the Titanic was sinking, passengers were being loaded onto the lifeboats by the deck crew. During this time, the engineering crew remained at their posts to work the pumps, controlling the flooding as much as possible. Their actions ensured the power stayed on during the evacuation and allowed the wireless radio system to keep sending distress signals. These brave men kept at their work as it was their responsibility.  They helped save more than 700 people even though it would cost them their own lives.


This story shows how an irresponsible decision can negatively impact the lives of hundreds of people.  The story also demonstrates how following through on your responsibilities can make a major positive impact, especially when you are putting the welfare of others above yourself.  The key factor here is that your responsibilities impact others one way or another and not just you.


Take a moment to think about what you are responsible.  How would fulfilling those responsibilities or choosing not to fulfill them impact others?  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Jan 10, 2021 at 1:02 PM
  

This month, our character focus is on Integrity. Integrity means that our daily interactions with ourselves and with others are led by honesty, trustworthiness, and sincerity. The following historical story speaks to the value of integrity and establishing trust with others.


The year was 1854. Jacob Hamblin was a Mormon pioneer sent from Illinois to help settle southern Utah as more and more people sought to move west.  Hamblin quickly developed a friendship with the Native Americans who lived there.  He did business with them regularly and they knew they could trust him to treat them honestly and fairly.  He was known as a man of integrity by his new friends because of his consistent actions.


One day he sent his son to obtain blankets from a Native American man, in exchange for a pony.  The man offered a pile of blankets after examining the pony, but the son, wanting to prove what a good business man he could be, refused the offer, saying he wanted more. 


The man continued to add blankets to the pile until the son agreed to the trade.  However, when the boy returned home, he found his father was not proud of his business skills.  The boy had taken more than the pony was worth, and he promptly sent the son to return half the blankets.


The Native American man, when the boy explained sheepishly what he was there to do, laughed.  He had known Hamblin would make his son return the extra blankets. 


You see integrity is actionable. It’s not just based on your words, but also your actions. If you want to become trustworthy, you must do things that build trust with others consistently over time.  And that is the essence of integrity.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Nov 29, 2020 at 1:55 PM
  

November is National Gratitude Month and also our character focus this month. Having gratitude means we express humility and thankfulness for the people, opportunities, gifts, and talents afforded us.


The following story I believe speaks volumes about having a mindset of gratitude.


The year was 1933. The Great Depression had reached its lowest point as nearly 15 million Americans, 20 percent of the population, were unemployed and over half of the nation’s banks had failed. Others who remained employed had their wages reduced which also decreased their buying power. Soup kitchens, breadlines, and a growing population of homeless people were common across many cities and towns in the US.


Despite all of these challenges, many Americans learned how to make do with what they had. They developed an attitude of gratitude and learned how to be grateful for what they did have and not what they were going without.


We have learned throughout our history that it’s not what you don’t have, but what you do with what you have that counts the most. That type of perspective only happens when you have gratitude. Folks during the Great Depression may have eaten the same type of meal for days on end, but they learned to be grateful that they had food. 


Marty Bryan, who is in his late 80s, from Columbus, Ohio shared, “I lived through The Great Depression and can remember eating beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I was four years old but at least we had something to eat. Others didn’t.” 


Another resident from Columbus, Ohio, Maxine Bartelt, age 87, recalls. “Eating was different in those days, too. We didn’t come to a table and complain because the food wasn’t what we liked. There were not many choices. We ate or went without. Some days bread and gravy tasted very good.”


The point here is this. We all have challenges and struggles we have to deal with just like right now going through this pandemic.  And it can be easy to get down because of those challenges. But it’s during those challenging times where a focus on being truly grateful for what we have will get us through. Because no matter what issues we may have, there is always someone out there in the world who has even greater challenges. 


Take a moment right now and think about who or what you are grateful for in your life. Have you shown appreciation for what you’re grateful for? Have you told others that you are grateful for them? For me personally, I am truly grateful, thankful, and joyful that I have the opportunity to serve as your principal every day. I am grateful and appreciative that I have a supportive and loving family at home and a loving, supportive staff I get to work with everyday. 


So for the entire month of November, I encourage you to take the gratitude challenge and post on Twitter and Instagram about someone or something you are grateful for everyday this month. Use #MHSgraditude.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Nov 01, 2020 at 4:15 PM
  

Our character trait of the month for October is Courage, which is when we demonstrate the bravery and resilience required when approaching uncertainty and change. The following story I believe speaks to the heart of courage.


The year was 1862. To be more exact, it was May 12, 1862 when a 22-year-old slave by the name of Robert Smalls would courageously pull off one of the greatest escapes to freedom in history.


At that time, Union Naval forces had created a blockade around Charleston, South Carolina and Confederate forces had dug in to defend its coastal waters. Robert Smalls was a mulatto slave who had been sailing those waters since his early teens. He was a “wheelman” aboard a gunboat the CSS Planter, a cotton steamer that had been heavily armed to go out into battle the next morning. The Planter was commanded by three white officers and had a crew of eight slaves including Smalls. Smalls was intelligent, resourceful, and a skillful navigator eager to free himself and his family. On May 12, 1862 he saw an opportunity to do just that. Against regulations the three white officers left the ship for the night, leaving Smalls and crew behind which shows how much they trusted Smalls and the crew.


After the officers were gone, Smalls shared his plan with the crew and went into action knowing that if they were caught they would all be shot.   At 2 a.m. on May 13, Smalls put on the captain’s uniform and straw hat to look the part. He and his small crew hoisted the South Carolina and Confederate flags as decoys and began easing the Planter out of the dock right past General Roswell Ripley’s headquarters.  He first stops at West Atlantic Wharf to pick up his wife and children, four other women, three men, and a child.


There were five Confederate harbor points Smalls had to guide the ship through. But Smalls was smart, over time he had studied every signal given by his captain so he was well prepared for this moment. At approximately 4:30 a.m. Smalls had sailed past the last point at Fort Sumter when the alarms sounded, but by that time, the Planter was out of gun range.


He had one more obstacle to overcome, the U.S. Naval forces. After sailing past Fort Sumter, they pulled down the two flags and hoisted a white bed sheet brought on board by his wife as a sign of surrender. However, it was still before sunrise and John Frederick Nickels, the acting captain of the USS Onward, could not see the white flag, so he ordered for the “ports to open” meaning prepare to fire. Just before the order to fire, the sun came up and one lookout spotted the white “flag” preserving the Planter and its crew. Smalls’ turned the ship over to the U.S. Navy. His escape plan had succeeded and his family was finally free.


Smalls would share with Naval intelligence the captain’s code book containing Confederate signals and a map of the mines and torpedoes laid in Charleston’s harbor. He shared his extensive knowledge of the Charleston waterways and military configurations. His valuable information allowed for Union forces to take over Coles Island and its string of batteries without a fight. 


Smalls would not only gain freedom for his family, but would go to serve in the U.S. Navy until 1868 when he began a career in politics. His first stint was in the South Carolina House of Representatives, then the state senate. In 1875, he would be elected to the U.S House of Representatives for South Carolina’s 5th district and then the 7th district. 


While Smalls exhibited great courage that night of the escape, he had been preparing for that night long before. He had the courage and the foresight to prepare for that moment. He knew the uncertainty and the dangers he would face yet he planned for it anyway. 


The point of his story can be summed up in the following quote from an unknown source. 

“Sometimes life can be challenging and you can feel as though you are not getting anywhere. However, you have to remember that every courageous step counts and if you take small steps every day, one day you will get there.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 04, 2020 at 2:02 PM
  
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