Can do attitude for youth

Summer Programs Instill A Can-Do Attitude
In Disadvantaged Youth

By Linda Mornell
Founder of Summer Search

How do we create grit in our kids? I read recently that character development is now considered as important if not more so than learning the hard skills like reading and math. But how can we as parents teach character development… especially grit?

Years ago, long before someone invented the term helicopter parenting, my husband and I sent our children to summer programs away from home. These were traditional camps where they lived with a group of new kids and learned to deal with problems on their own. Then after their freshman year of high school, each one participated in a three-week mountaineering and white-water rafting trip in Oregon with Outward Bound.

Our middle daughter was sensitive, with an artistic side. Sandwiched between two athletic and competitive siblings, she had learned early on to say, “I can’t,” and to give in to her many fears: heights, the dark and extending herself athletically. The idea of doing any kind of wilderness program was anathema to her. We told her she had a choice: she could go voluntarily or involuntarily.

 She chose to go involuntarily. I still remember that angry silent drive to the airport.

When she returned home she had a new name, “Sara Can!”

Those rigorous adventures had the intended effect, which in those days I called, “going for hard.” Today the word is grit. By making hard choices in places where no one knew them, my children had the chance to stretch themselves and experiment with different identities, and build self-efficacy — the belief in their ability to succeed in challenging situations. Children with self-efficacy move toward challenges rather than away from them. They lean in.

Because these programs were so instrumental in helping my children find their voices and embark on successful paths, I started Summer Search, a non-profit that provides similar opportunities to low-income high school students. We give ongoing mentoring and two full scholarships for our kids to participate in summer programs. The first, some kind of wilderness expedition after their sophomore year and the second, a family home stay abroad, community service, or academic experience on a college campus after their junior year.

Twenty-five years later, thousands of adolescents have been willing to take the risk of leaving home, and like Sara Can, expose themselves to the unknown and to be miserable. To be wet and cold all night, struggle with bruises, strange bug bites and to never quit. And they participate with kids from affluent families who, to their surprise, are not that much different. Everyone smells the same after the first week.

They return home more resilient and more self-assured as they too have learned that they can – that they are, indeed, strong enough to do anything.

About Linda Mornell

Linda Mornell is the founder of Summer Search (, a nonprofit organization that provides disadvantaged young people with life-changing and challenging summer opportunities. She is also the author of the book “Forever Changed: How Summer Programs and Insight Mentoring Challenge Adolescents and Transform Lives.” Mornell was born on a farm in Muncie, Ind. After getting her RN and bachelor’s degrees from Methodist Hospital and DePauw University, she headed west on a Greyhound bus. She received psychiatric training from Langley Porter at the University of California in San Francisco and married a psychiatric resident, Pierre Mornell. She has three adult children and seven grandchildren. Mornell divides her time among family, writing and consulting. In 2014, she was blessed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for her efforts to empower disadvantaged youth.

Six Tips to Make a Great First Impression on a First Date

Jacqueline Whitmore is an internationally-recognized etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach.  Her six tips to stand out from a sea of other suitors and impress your next date:


  1. Plan ahead. A little preparation will help you appear calm, confident and composed no matter how anxious you may actually feel. Equip yourself with interesting conversation topics. Do your research. If you and your date share a mutual friend, ask about your date’s hobbies and interests. To appear knowledgeable and interesting, brush up on current events. It’s best to know a little about a lot so you’ll be able to converse with your date on a variety of subjects. Stay away from controversial topics including politics and religion, until you get to know each other better.


  1. Do your homework. It takes work to make a romantic evening appear effortless. If you want to guarantee a great first impression, research the location or venue. For example, if you plan to take your date to a restaurant, go online and familiarize yourself with the menu. Look for foods that are easy to eat and won’t end up on your nice outfit. The person who does the inviting does the paying. Plan to give your credit card to your server before your date arrives or as the meal is coming to a close. Excuse yourself during the dessert course and find your server. It’s best to take care of the check away from the table if you want to appear savvy and sophisticated.


  1. Be punctual. When you show up on time, you send a clear message that you’re responsible and respectful of your date’s time. If you plan to meet your date at a restaurant, give yourself plenty of time to find the location, go to the restroom, check your appearance and gain your composure.


  1. Dress to impress. Your appearance is part of your personal brand and is your opportunity to showcase your personality. You’re more likely to make a great first impression if you appear well dressed and “put together.” When you choose an outfit, take into account where you plan to go and what you plan to do on your date. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. Instead, create a foundation for your wardrobe with an investment in timeless pieces.


  1. Greet your date warmly. A firm handshake or a peck on the cheek is the most appropriate way to greet your date when you first meet. Your greeting should be warm, friendly and sincere. Remember to make eye contact and smile. The smile is the most beautiful curve on the human body. A handshake that is too firm or too weak may give off a negative impression. If you’re seated when your date arrives, stand up and say hello. Standing shows respect for the other person and for yourself.


  1. Be an attentive listener. A good conversation is like a tennis match. It only works when you hit the ball in the other person’s court. In other words, don’t talk only about yourself. You’ll impress your date if you show you’re fully engaged, listen, and ask pertinent questions. Never interrupt or finish your date’s sentences. You don’t want to appear rude or in a hurry. Don’t talk with your mouth full of food and don’t text or talk on your cell phone. Give your date your undivided attention. Attentive listening builds trust, establishes rapport, leaves a great first impression, and almost always guarantees a second date.

Jacqueline Whitmore

Jacqueline Whitmore, CSP, is an international etiquette expert, author, and spokesperson who has helped thousands of people around the world learn to be more confident and courteous in business and social situations. She is the author of Poised for Success (St. Martin’s Press, November 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), which is currently in its tenth printing and has been translated into four languages.

For more information about Ms. Whitmore, go to

Poised for Success Poised for Success book

Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books
Independent Booksellers

Book Promo: Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success

How to Overcome Excuses
6 Tips to Gain the Edge & Meet Your Goals

Great people throughout history often fail, quite miserably, before finally reaching their goals, says international business strategist Dan Waldschmidt.

“Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime; Winston Churchill lost every public election until becoming prime minister at age 62; Henry Ford went bankrupt five times; Albert Einstein was a terrible student and was expelled from school; Sigmund Freud was booed from a stage,” says Waldschmidt, author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” (

“Ideas, brilliance, genius – they all mean nothing without the guts, passion and tenacity necessary to make your dream a reality. But often, people fall back on excuses and give up on trying to reach their goals.”

Most of us have dreams, and many of us have big ones, but few of us actually see them through, he says.

He offers six tricks for jumping off the excuse train and forge the path to your goals.

•  Avoid the need to blame others for anything. Mean, small-minded people know that they suck. That’s why they are so cranky and eager to point out others’ mistakes. They hope that by causing others to feel inadequate, everyone will forget about how woefully off the mark their own performance is. Don’t blame anyone, for any reason, ever. It’s a bad habit.

•  Stop working on things that just don’t matter. Not everything needs to be done in place of sleep. If you work for a boss, then you owe them solid time. You can’t cut that out. You can, however, cut out television time, meetings and anything else that gets in the way of achieving your goals. Replace entertainment with activity toward your goal.

•  Refuse to let yourself wallow in self-doubt. You’re alive to succeed. Stop comparing your current problems to your last 18 failures. They are not the same. You are not the same. Here’s something to remember: Your entire life has been a training ground for you to capture your destiny right now. Why would you doubt that? Stop whining. Go conquer.

•  Ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” And then do it next time. If you spend a decade or two earnestly trying to be better, that’s exactly what will happen. The next best thing to doing something amazing is not doing something stupid. So learn from your mistakes and use the lessons to dominate.

•  Proactively take time to do things that fuel your passion. Exercise is a great example. Living in the moment requires you to live at peak performance. A huge part of mental fitness is physical fitness. A sparring or running partner is a great way to refresh physical competition. Physical activity accelerates mental motivation.

•  Apologize to yourself and those around you for having a bad attitude. Do this once or twice and you’ll snap out of your funk pretty fast. When you start genuinely apologizing for being a bad influence on those around you, you learn to stop whining and start winning.

About Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt is the author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” ( He is an international business strategist, speaker, author and extreme athlete. His consulting firm solves complex marketing and business strategy problems for savvy companies all over the world.