Achieve straight ‘A’s’ in the ‘School of Life’

ST. GEORGE – No matter how hard you train, you can’t always prepare for the hit that’s going to knock you off your feet. Skye Payne and Adam Nilssen are two high school students who’ve been kicked off their feet. They learned early that life isn’t fair. They were tired of life schooling them when they discovered something that gave them the skills and inspiration to win at life.

Payne struggles to do many things “regular” kids take for granted.  She has a mild case of cerebral palsy, as well as hemiplegia, or paralysis, on her left side. This makes it difficult for her to participate in sporting events and other physical activities.

When Payne applied for a scholarship from the School of Life Foundation, she didn’t realize it would change the way she thought. The School of Life Foundation asked her to read their book, “Learn to ‘School’ Your Toughest Opponent,” and write an essay. She read the book, wrote the essay, won the scholarship, and applied the things she learned to her life.

Nilssen’s also had a difficult time. He’s extremely shy – so shy, in fact, it’s hindered his school work. He found himself needing to complete restitution for excessive absences from school.  One of the choices for restitution was going through the School of Life Program. Nilssen wasn’t excited about this program when it began. He had no idea it would change his outlook on life. He also read the book, “Learn to ‘School’ Your Toughest Opponent,” completed the homework in the book, and for the required final project, made a video.

Payne has been planning for college for many years. Her family cannot afford to pay for schooling, so Payne knew scholarships, grants, and financial aid would be how she would achieve her dream of higher education.

“I’ve always known my limits. I try to push myself to do whatever I think I can,” Payne said. Cerebral palsy “does hinder me a little bit. It’s a fact and it happens. I was inspired to apply the ‘straight “A’s” in life’ to my own life,” Payne said. “They truly are 10 ways to live a better life.”

Nilssen wants to be a horticulturist. He knew he had to graduate high school to achieve his dream. When he started the School of Life program, he didn’t think it would affect him, but he gained self confidence and learned to accept himself.

“I thought people would be judging us and telling us what to do,” Nilssen said. “They said they appreciate all of us for who we are. They like us for who we are. From the first moment we went in there I knew that this is different. I think the program will stick with me,” Nilssen said. “Right now I’m at the age when I need the most motivation. I need to learn the most knowledge. I expect the skills I learned to get stronger.”

What are Payne and Nilssen talking about? The values and principles from the book “Learn to ‘School’ Your Toughest Opponent.” This book outlines ten ‘A’s’ that help to guide you in your life.  It’s not just for teens. It’s useful for children and adults as well.

The ten ‘A’s’ include: Appreciate (Be Grateful), Assist (Help Others through Service), Attitude (Have a Positive Outlook), Aim (Set Goals), Associate (Allow Others to be Part of Your Life), Align (Organize), Action (Do It Now), Avoid (Stay Away from Trouble), Adapt (Be Flexible), and Always (Remember God).   The book has short explanations on each ‘A’ and how to apply them in your own life. It includes a homework assignment for each value as well.

“I think the ‘A’ that had the most profound effect on me would be ‘Attitude,’” Payne said, “I have always been slightly a pessimist so for me to be spending even part of the day with a positive attitude shows how the ‘Straight A’s in Life’ has really impacted my daily mindset.”

When Payne began applying the Attitude ‘A,’ she started getting up in the morning, putting a smile on her face, and listening to music that made her happy. Her friends and family noticed her change in attitude and told her she seemed happier.

Attitude was the ‘A’ that helped Nilssen the most as well. “To me your whole life depends on your attitude,” Nilssen said. “I was bit in the face by a dog. I could have been mad at everyone and become reclusive. I had to adjust myself a little bit. Attitude controls everything. You can make it worse or better depending on your attitude.”

As Nilssen changed his attitude, he was able to overcome his shyness. He said, “I’m only trying to please myself. That’s all I should worry about. Not being worried about what other people think.”

Both Payne and Nilssen feel they are better people for completing the workbook. As Payne said, “The Straight A’s in Life have impacted my life a significant amount. I’m a happier and overall better person.”

“The School of Life has benefitted me in so many countless ways,” Nilssen said. “I’m grateful for it.”

The trick for succeeding in life is to overcome your own personal opponents. You can improve your chances by setting and achieving goals, while helping others achieve their own goals. You can thrive by focusing on values and principles that matter to you. Achieving Straight ‘A’s’ in life helps you get back on your feet when you’ve been knocked off balance.

Written by Julie Gubler for St. George Health and Wellness magazine.


Where: School of Life Foundation, 81 North 1100 West, St. George, Utah 84770

Contact Jack Rolfe, president and founder: email [email protected] / telephone: 435-632-2947

Website: School of Life Foundation


  St. George Health and Wellness website

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, Inc., and St. George Health and Wellness magazine, 2013, all rights reserved.

Straight As

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