$481.22 (1,245)

August 21st, 2011

In high school, I was the president of my junior class. It was a dubious honor bestowed upon me by the local student electorate, confirmed by the teachers and administration, because in all of their minds’ eyes, I was the best to represent my class. I use the word “dubious” because our class was relegated by the adults of our high school as “the losers.” We were what you might call both the “least” and “most” student body. For instance, “the least team spirit.” And “the most visits to the principal’s office.” I think you probably get the drift.

We were in one of our class meetings, which were always a great tug of war between our advisor trying to get us to use parliamentary procedure, and me having a smart-ass comment about parliament being in London. It was late January and we were informed by the powers-that-be that it was the tradition at our BigWalnutHigh School for the junior class to pay for the prom each and every year. We were all a little surprised by this revelation, and immediately turned to our treasurer, who in horror, with a blanched face, informed us that we were $481.22 short of such an endeavor. Now, that might not sound like very much money unless you’re sixteen years old, living in Ohio in 1969—certainly a number more suited to sending a man to the moon.

We all immediately sank into a great pool of despair (since we were the class voted most likely to be depressed and least likely to escape its grip). Our advisor, dear woman that she was, thought the best approach to motivate us would be tough love, which, by the way, had not yet been invented. At that time it was just called “mean.” She explained to us that the entire school would be making fun of us, mocking us and that we would be the first class in the history of BigWalnutHigh School to fail to provide the funds for a prom which most certainly would not be held, most assuredly ushering in the fourth horseman of the apocalypse.

You see, the problem was that our advisor did not understand that unmotivated high school students who are prone to depression are usually not given great energy by being told the reality of a situation. We just sat there, stared at her and began to think of excuses of why we couldn’t afford the prom, picking out our favorite members of the steering committee to blame for the horrific malady.

But strangely enough, at that point, I actually mustered a little bit of backbone and foraged through my soul and found some leadership—because this was not a financial need that was going to be met by the typical bake sale or by tin cans placed around the school for collecting coins. This needed innovation. So I suggested two ideas.

The first one I had read about in the Columbus Dispatch—the story of a school that raised money by having a powder puff football game—a relatively new concept in that era. The premise was that the girls in the school would dress up in football uniforms, choose up teams and play tackle football, much to the delight of the male student body and the citizenry of the community. That was my first idea. Since it was a new one, filled with “big town” sensations, it was immediately met with negativity. I was told that girls couldn’t play football, they would get injured, there would be insurance problems and that the community would object to their fair maidens becoming fullbacks. I explained that the attraction was NOT that the girls would become fullbacks, but that they had full fronts. Our advisor did not think I was very funny. But we voted to do it, and actually survived all the slings and arrows of the local “press beagle,” which tried to hound us out of such a gender-bending idea.

My second idea was to hold a Hoot’ Nanny, an event usually held in places like Greenwich Village, New York—not in small-town Ohio. This was better received, since people were going to be able to get on stage, play their guitars, sing and produce some Kum Ba Yah moments.

So we set both plans in motion, and I personally was put in charge of turning some very testosterone-driven males from our class into cheerleaders for the powder puff football game. I also succeeded in bringing my musical group to perform at the Hoot’ Nanny.

Well, long story short, much to the amazement of the adult world, and even the student body, both events were extraordinarily successful, and by the time we got done trimming out our expenses and counting our money, we had raised $506.33. Our treasurer was quick to tell us that this was more money than we needed.

We had our prom. Matter of fact, I later found out that there had been great subterfuge within the adult teacher-community, and that they had always planned to have a prom, but wanted us to feel guilty and inadequate—adult staples. I had great satisfaction in removing from these bureaucrats the power of both bailing us out and of saying “I told you so.”

When prom rolled around it was a sweet night. We did it. And I learned through that experience that there are always going to be three kinds of people in life—those who are scared, those who don’t care and those who are willing to help if you actually come up with a good idea.

The scared people would even argue with God—that creating the heavens and the earth might generate more problems than it was worth. The apathetic folks feel it’s their job to create a litany of reasons on why activity is unhealthy to the human race. But those remaining handfuls that are willing to help are always enough to get the job done if you’re not scared and you bust through your apathy and you actually hatch a good idea.

It was a tremendous learning experience, because at the end of the day, leadership does not lie in agreeing with all the committees, but rather, in coming up with a great notion … that all the committees can agree upon.

Published in: on August 21, 2011 at 10:38 am  Comments (1)  
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