Cierra Holder, the guest author of this blog, is a sophomore at Lake Stevens High School in Washington State, USA. She is actively involved in the school band and loves writing and drawing.
The day began with an ensemble of strange adults in room 426. Students walked by the open doorway with quizzical looks and slightly confused expressions. A handful of cameramen and women stood scattered about, their careful lenses following the entering students. It was an overwhelming experience for most; something of this magnitude hadn’t been anticipated by the group of sophomores and juniors. All of this had sprung from the simple whim of an English teacher.
Ms. Guilfoil has been a teacher who truly tries her best to connect what we learn about American Literature and the real world. English is a subject that is extremely difficult for students to see themselves using after high school or college, yet Ms. Guilfoil has come up with various creative ways for us to go outside the four walls of our classroom. On Friday the 18th of April -a reading day- Ms. Guilfoil proposed a new idea during our opening business: a contest put on by Skype, GOOD magazine and TOMS. Within that one class period, groups of students filmed a series of videos on their beliefs about communities. It was a quick and easy project that was dismissed as soon as the day was done. No one believed we would be the lucky class chosen to have a Skype call with the creator of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie. But the unimaginable sometimes does happen and it couldn’t have been a more pleasant surprise.
Preparing for the upcoming day, our class was geared towards figuring out what we, as students and soon-to-be-adults, could take from this experience. We knew we would learn more about TOMS (that was a no-brainer) but we wanted to know how could we create a system like TOMS or our own charity, how can we, as young adults, be influential, and how we could work towards good in our own communities. Some of our questions stemmed from our work with communities from American Literature, whereas others came from our own inquiries. Those questions allowed us to learn a lot in our short experience.
Being able to see someone so influential on the other end of our call was in itself a great adventure. Afterwards many of my classmates discussed how Blake seemed like a real guy. He didn’t seem like what many high school students imagine a CEO to be like; a man in a suit, sitting poised in a fancy office, with an arrogant attitude. Instead we got to meet a man who was very down to earth, in a black and white striped shirt drinking a cup of coffee. This made it easier for us to relate to the businessman as he told us the story of TOMS. It was amazing to hear how rapidly the business grew, from something he ran from his apartment to a worldwide market. Their goals of helping people expanded not only in the number of shoes but in different products as well. The history of TOMS is an easily inspiring tale of how such a small action can grow to assist so many people.
Afterwards we were able to ask our questions like: “What do you recommend for a person who is interested in starting a shoe line?” or “What keeps you motivated?” Brittany’s question was particularly interesting. “We are heading off to college soon. Any tips you can give us on getting the most out of our college experience?” Blake’s answer wasn’t really the expected. He told us that college was the time to expand our horizons, not to hang out with the same group of people or focus on the same major but a vast array of different subjects. He told us he feels when a student is coming out of college who only focused on one topic comes away with an “educational base that is very narrow, very deep, but very narrow.” I know this is something I’ll be keeping in mind when I’m in college.
This experience as a whole gave our class a great view of what social-good companies are and how effective they can be. Blake talked to us about how we should follow our passions, not where the money is. Many of my classmates felt like this is what social-good companies are based off of. Blake followed his ‘passion’ of wanting to give shoes to people who needed them, not a business opportunity (though TOMS has become a worldwide business). In my opinion, TOMS is a perfect example of what social good companies are all about and it’s impactful for more students to know about projects such as theirs.
All in all it’s easy to see in our classroom what we took away from such a unique opportunity, and if all students got an opportunity for such an event, I feel like students could learn so much more. We, here in Ms. Guilfoil’s third period class, are extremely thankful for not only TOMS but for Skype and GOOD magazine and their idea for a contest that gave us another chance to learn.
For more exciting learning opportunities, check out our free community for educators, Skype in the classroom.