I knew Josh was a perfect candidate for Discover Year the moment I met him.
It was the first promotional presentation I gave for the program, at St. Peter High School in the east end of Ottawa. We were embarking upon a journey to recruit students who weren’t sure what path they wanted to take after high school, and who needed some time and guidance to figure it out. We planned to help these students build important character traits and career skills – the tools they need to create purposeful lives for themselves.
Josh had enough confidence to admit that he didn’t know what he wanted to do after high school – an impressive feat for a grade 12 student in today’s increasingly pressurized high school environment.
He was positive, curious and optimistic. He asked great questions and – most importantly – he seemed very excited about doing something different. He was an innovator.
Fast forward a year and a half, and Josh has proven my instinct right – many times over.
No one said it better than his former guidance counsellor, Brent. We met up with Brent at the end of the first Discover Year, when our students went back to Josh's former high school to deliver their community service project.
“Jay – I can’t believe that this is the same person who left here a year ago,” Brent told me about five minutes after we arrived.
“What do you mean Brent – how has he changed?”
“Well, he was always a great kid, and I really enjoyed having him here, but he was obviously confused about his future when he left high school, and look at him now! He seems so purposeful, so confident… even the way he is speaking with the students – his communication skills have come so far. He’s a man on a mission.”
Currently, Josh’s mission includes a degree in Computer Science with a minor in Psychology from Carleton University, where he is finishing up his first semester.
But that’s just the start.
Since beginning university three months ago, Josh has taken up a new form of martial arts (he had never studied any martial arts previously), he coaches his classmates on time management when they stress out over deadlines and exams, and he casts a warm and nurturing ray of sunshine on everyone he meets. Before last year, it seemed, the sun was inside of him, but it was hiding behind a cloud of uncertainty.
Here is the best part of all: for the first two months of the semester, he taught English online to students in China at 6:30am everyday…. And THEN went to a full day of classes.
Talk about purpose.
Recently, Josh recognized that the schedule he was keeping was not sustainable, so he decided to leave the online teaching for now, and is considering other part-time work opportunities. His ability to critically assess the situation, identify his priorities and take action to honour them is a perfect example of the maturity and confidence that a year of "real life" experience and guidance can build.
Josh learned many things during his purposeful gap year. He learned a lot about himself - his strengths, his values and how he wanted to serve the world. During his month-long trip to Germany and Denmark, he learned that, as he says, “people are people, wherever you go. They are mostly good, and I couldn’t believe how generous strangers were to me in these foreign countries.”
An uplifting message in a world often narrated by hate speech and fear.
This is but one of the many important lessons available to those who take the time to step off the conveyor belt and smell the roses.
There are, to be certain, thorns in the garden of life, but Josh is a perfect example of how small they seem once you give the flowers the space they need to bloom.