Reflection on Values – What is Excellence?

Today I want to draw attention to our values, one of the results of the retreat we had with our advisory board back in March of this year.  We were able to re-define and focus our mission statement and our core values that guide us in our work both in the U.S. and with our scholars in Ecuador.

Joselyn, younger sister of a Starfish Scholar, is a big part of our Starfish community,
always willing to lend a helping hand.

Our core values are: Community, Life-long Learning, Determination and Excellence.  Excellence is the one, that for me really encompasses the heart of our mission.  Creating a community of scholars, our Starfish family, makes us unique because we create an environment where success is possible together.  We encourage our scholars to seek knowledge in all aspects of their life through life-long learning, and I’m pretty sure I never knew what real determination was before meeting some of our Scholars who have had to persevere in the face of challenges I never even imagined.  However, I keep coming back to Excellence.

Gema & Jasmin helping Julio with a school project.

What is “Excellence” to you?  To me, it is a mindset.  It is the mindset that is going to change our Scholar’s lives, no matter what their social or economic circumstances, and no matter what craziness occurs in the world around them.  To me, excellence doesn’t have so much to do with being “the best” at something, but rather not conforming with the status quo.  If you are frustrated that the government says they are going to pave your road but they never get around to it, or the workers are slow or irresponsible and turn a 6 month project into a 2 year project – does that make it okay for you to do the same with your studies? your job? your own neighborhood projects?  Because the rest of your friends choose not to go to school on the first day because “we don’t do anything on the first day,” does that mean you can extend your vacation one more day as well?  No – as an excellent Starfish Scholar (or Starfish supporter/friend/donor/volunteer,etc.) you know that you may not see the fruits of your labor right away, and others may wonder why you bother to put in that extra effort, but you know you are being the most excellent “you” that you can be!

Abraham, studying hard at “Refuerzo”

Excellent people lead others – sometimes at the head of a classroom, sometimes from a government position, and sometimes quietly by example in your family, school or community.  All of these leaders are equally important.  This year we challenge our Scholars to not settle for the status quo.  With this knowledge that we all know they can be excellent, there are no longer excuses.  That B+ is good, but could it be an A-?  We believe it can.  We challenge our Scholars to challenge themselves and each other. Striving for excellence will change their lives and it can change yours too.  Strive to be excellent in everything that YOU do, and expect big things from our Scholars this year!

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”(most often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi)
Betsabeth with her parents at her graduation this past March
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