FEATURE – As I walked into the main lobby of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame campus on a beautiful day in June 2009, I had an overwhelming feeling that my life was about to change forever.
Even though I didn’t know a soul whom I was about to meet, I still felt that these people would be part of something special in my life. It seemed as if the spirit of this long-standing institution bled from every brick in every building. I couldn’t believe that I was standing where so many great leaders had stood before me.
Even more amazing to me was the fact that a week earlier, I had celebrated my 50th birthday with my wife, children and grandchildren at our home in St. George. Now I was about to begin a course to earn a master’s degree in nonprofit administration. The average age of my classmates was far younger than I; but, you see, it’s never too late.
My mind started to drift back to another afternoon 14 years earlier, a day that was a pivotal part of starting the incredible journey that brought me to Notre Dame. It was 1995, and I was at the airport in Dallas. As I boarded, it seemed like the beginning of any other flight. You make your way down the aisle, looking for your seat and possible overhead space. You prepare to be uncomfortable for the next three hours and buckle in.
I had repeated this routine countless times before, and today seemed no different. How could I even imagine that something would happen to me on this trip home to Las Vegas that would not only change my life, but the lives of thousands of youth around the world?
Halfway through the flight, I was starting to doze a little, drifting in and out of sleep. I was then jolted with a strong yet peaceful impression that permeated my heart and mind. I had a vivid vision of the “next step” in my life. Wow! I could not deny what I was experiencing: Part of my mission in life was to write a book. I remember thinking: “What? I am not an author! What is this impression all about?”
As I mulled over this startling thought, I remembered a speech I had given to a women’s organization two years prior to this flight. The theme of my presentation was: “How to Attain Straight A’s in Life.” Now, at 30,000 feet somewhere over New Mexico, I was feeling one of those burning sensations in my soul. I was supposed to pull out the notes from that talk and write a book on it.
I put the idea far back in my mind. In fact, I put it off for two years until I could no longer fight it. The same impression to write the book would not leave me; thus, I gave in.
Now, as I think back on the experience, I vividly remember being convinced that I needed to move forward and publish the book. But once it was published, I still didn’t know what was next. Then one day, once again out of the blue, the inspiration bells began to ring loud and clear. I was being prompted by that inner spirit to create a foundation to help youth, with book as the center curriculum.
Well, I had learned from the past not to fight it. Though I once again was not exactly sure of the entire process to reach my end goal, I began to take the steps to develop a nonprofit entity called the School of Life Foundation. Its mission is to assist youth in reaching their full potential by “achieving straight A’s in the school of life!”
Now, six years after the foundation was granted official nonprofit status, School of Life curriculum has been placed in the hands of 50,000 individuals in over 500 programs, including schools, sports teams, youth organizations and church groups, as well as corporations. This placement is across 23 states and 13 countries. And I am finally beginning to see why these impressions came.
With the rapid growth of the foundation, I felt inspired to learn more about how to run a nonprofit organization. Thus, I found myself studying, applying to Notre Dame, being accepted and finally arriving at the Mendoza School of Business. I received my degree in May 2013.
Take a moment to pause and reflect on whether you are changing your world so that you can change the world for others. It’s never too late.
Written by Jack Rolfe for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
Rolfe is the founder and president of the School of Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission of helping youth reach their full potential. A professional speaker, Rolfe holds the honor of presenting at the inaugural National Mentoring Summit held at the Library of Congress. He conducts the “Achieving Straight A’s in the School of Life” workshop at colleges and universities nationwide.
In May 2013, Rolfe earned a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. He and his wife, Lexie, have five children and eight grandchildren and currently reside in St. George.
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