Monday, September 29, 2014

Beyond Background Checks

Cheri Faunce & Nicolette Loutsch
Last week, Kansas hosted its 2014 Kansas Conference on Service & Volunteerism in Wichita. First, the content was invaluable, and the organization, professional and hospitable. We would recommend this conference to Oklahomans. Congratulations to Cheri Faunce, director of Kansas Mentors, Nicolette Loutsch, executive director of the Kansas Volunteer Commission, and others who made this such a powerful and pleasant event.

Whitney Mastin
This is an excerpt from "SAFE: Prioritizing Youth Safety with Research Based Mentor Screening Practices," developed by Friends for Youth. Whitney Mastin, a certified SAFE trainer, presented a three-hour version of the SAFE mentor screening program, a six-hour course. Mastin is also director of operations at Midlands Mentoring Partnership in Omaha, Nebraska. Future posts will have more information, but this is a critical checklist. That a potential mentor may be well-known in the community or that you have a school-based program is irrelevant.
Do you have the following? If not, why?
  • Staff training and supervision
  • Applicant database
  • Written eligibility criteria/policy
  • Mentee and parent training
  • Mentor position statement
  • Commitment statement
  • Orientation/info session
  • Written application
  • In-person interview
  • Home visit
  • Criminal history - state
  • Criminal history - federal
  • Sex offender registries check
  • Child abuse registry check
  • Driving record
  • Internet/social media searches
  • Character references (at least 3)
  • Psychological tests
  • Pre-match mentor training
  • Final decision
  • Ongoing mentor check-ins
  • Ongoing mentee check-ins
  • Ongoing parent check-ins

More excellent resources can be found at the Friends for Youth website.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Luncheon Speaker, Wanda Pratt

A tiny portion of the keynote speaker's presentation--from our notes--follows. Wanda Pratt, mother of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, had the audience gripped from the moment she, with beaming smile and radiating kindness, was introduced. 

United Way of Central Oklahoma has orchestrated many inspiring volunteer luncheons, but this is among the best.

Charla Rhodes, director of the Volunteer Center, introduced Wanda Pratt, who is a multi-faceted role model. At age 18, Wanda was a teen mother of Anthony. At 21, she had Kevin. Fortunately, she had strong, supportive female relatives as mentors. Although she was a single mom of two boys by age 22, she achieved a two-decade career with the federal government and raised two outstanding young men.

Wanda Pratt & Linda Tharp,
VP Human Resources &
Programs, United Way
Wanda described herself as a good mother, or “hovering” one. She wanted her sons to participate in youth basketball or other organized sports. Caring who was around her boys, she made the opportunity to observe the men involved in her sons’ organized sports. Quickly, she became the team mom. 

“The little boys were really there for the chips and Gatorade,” she added.

Eventually, Wanda decided to spend time with the girls at the recreation center, and she built relationships with them. When her sons were older, Wanda decided to go back to school to get her college degree. She had not realized the impact she had had on the young ladies, approximately 15 of them. Later one of the girls told Wanda that she had left them hanging. She had not realized the power of her time and relationship with the girls. 

Wanda told the audience, “It broke my heart.”

Gaylene Stiles, Mercy Health's Mentor Coordiator, and
Barbara Royce, AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison at
United Way of Central Oklahoma
Realizing she loved little girls, too, she designed a second chapter of her life, i.e., talking to young girls and women about self and their potential. 

Drawing from her own childhood, Wanda knew that she and her mother were close, but her mother had issues. A broken woman, she had worked herself to the bone rather than focusing on self to realize her potential.

Wanda talks to girls and women about who they are and who they want the world to know they are. 

To girls and young women, pregnant and unmarried or not, Wanda shows paths and processes to be successful.

“It’s not what you do but how you do it even if you have a job at McDonald’s or elsewhere,” she told the audience.

As an illustration, Wanda clasped her hands. "We’ve been clasping hands this way all of our lives. If we do it differently, after a while it feels normal," she stated.

The sacrifices she made help her touch lives—of little boys, single moms, and others as a career coach.

Anthony, her older son who works for a nonprofit, mentors in California in a group home. Kevin mentors.

Dedicated to the lives of children, Wanda reminded us that we are all in a village. Growing and nurturing young people does take an entire village. She encouraged the audience to reach out and try to make an impact on a child.

  • Be who you are.
  • Know what you have to offer.
  • Give out who you are.

Wanda is involved in the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players Association and Foundation in addition to motivational speaking and other forms of mentoring and coaching. She also is a frequent visitor to Oklahoma and Thunder basketball games.  

After her presentation, Wanda Pratt stood tirelessly, patiently, and lovingly for many photos with guests. This magnanimity was greatly tested as she posed almost endlessly for 1,000's of photos on Oklahoma Mentor Day 2015, where she was the keynote speaker.

To learn more about the incredible, genuine Wanda, see her website or wait for another post!  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be?" II
Harold Kushner sums up choices, or personal warfare, in this story, which was attributed to a Native American tribal leader. 

Upon research, this story may neither originate with Native American culture, nor may the animals be dogs, but details do not matter.


" describing his own inner struggles. 

He said, 'There are two dogs inside me. 

One of the dogs is mean and evil

The other dog is good

The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.' 

Someone asked him which dog usually wins

and after a moment's reflection, he answered, 

'The one I feed the most.'"

Kushner, H.S. (2001). What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be? In Living a Life That Matters (p. 58). New York: Anchor Books. 

Ret. 9-9-14


  • Do we all have two dogs inside of us? 
  • What and how much do we feed ourselves? 
  • Do we recognize our triggers, or temptations?
  • How can we control, or avoid, the mean dog?
  • Is victory permanent?
  • What kind of person do I want to be?

Add your own questions for discussion.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"What Kind of Person Do I Want to Be" I
Excerpt from a book:

Back when one of my congregational responsibilities was teaching the teenage confirmation class, I would put this puzzle to my students: 

Your business includes a string of coin-operated newspaper-vending machines. People deposit fifty cents, open the door, and take a paper. The problem is, once the door is open there is nothing to stop a person from taking more than one newspaper, significantly cutting into your profits. You decide to put a sign on the machine to keep people from doing that, and you are offered three suggestions as to what that sign should read:

A. This machine is under surveillance. If you take more than one newspaper, you will be subject to arrest. Stealing is against the law.

B. I depend on the income from this machine to support my family. Please don't steal from me.

C. Please don't take anything you haven't paid for. What kind of person are you?

In those three alternatives, you may recognize psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg's three stags of moral development: 
  • doing right out of fear of punishment
  • doing right out of a feeling of communal solidarity with others, and
  • doing right because it is right.
For several years, I asked my teenage students two questions: Which of those three signs would be the most effective deterrent for most people? And which of them would be most effective for you personally? The results were consistent. 

The students unanimously rejected (A), arguing that the prospect of being arrested for stealing a newspaper was too remote to deter people. They chose (B) when it came to other people, but they chose (C) as most likely to influence their own behavior. They believed they were basically good people (or perhaps they wanted me to believe that they were) and believed that others could be persuaded to do what was right by an appeal to sympathy, putting themselves in the vending machine owner's place.

Like most teenagers, they were idealistic. They wanted to believe in the goodness of the world, that people would do the right thing if we could just find the right words to persuade them. But at the same time, like most adolescents, they spend a lot of time contemplating with much discomfort their own readiness to lie, to exploit, to be cruel to the vulnerable. 

I suspect that is why the question "What kind of person are you?" resonated with them, even as it did for Jacob when, in the midst of his struggle, the angel asked him, "What is your name?" Who are you really? It is something those adolescents probably asked themselves twenty times a day? 

Kushner, H.S. (2001). What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be? In Living a Life That Matters (pp. 56-58). New York: Anchor Books. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mentoring Kids from Hard Places

Matt Vassar, Ph.D., and Mentor
I work with a challenging population.  I work with kids from hard places.  My kids all have troubling stories related to neglect, abuse, abandonment, drugs, incarcerated parents, or academic failure.  

At some point along the way, their living environments were deemed unsafe, and these kids were removed from their homes and placed into a system of transitory living. Foster homes, emergency shelters, psychiatric hospitals, and group homes became their world.  

Imagine for a moment, a world of constant change – a new set of rights and wrongs, a new family, a new school, and a new religion every few weeks or months.  Imagine the difficulty in forming an attachment to one single person in a world where everything seems temporary.  

That’s where I come in.  I am a mentor.  

My personal ambition is to develop that relationship, to be something more permanent in a life of revolving doors and brief acquaintances.  

And it’s challenging.  

Reactive attachment disorder runs rampant.  Kids bounce from placement to placement.  Some return to their families.  Whatever the case, it can be hard to maintain a long term relationship with kids from hard places.  

But despite the difficulties, there is something special, something rewarding, and something that drives me to keep going. Perhaps it is the stories that these kids have overcome, or perhaps it is seeing an untrusting kid begin to trust again.  

Maybe it is the wisdom and perspective I receive from these kids, or maybe it is simply the ability to take a break from grown-up life and play for a while.  

But whatever it is, it drives me to want to encourage others to become mentors to kids from hard places.  

With over 10,000 kids in child welfare services, it seems to me like the need is great, yet the workers are few. I certainly don’t think that mentoring kids from hard places is for everyone. If you are picturing some idealized version of a Michael Oher story from The Blind Side, this gig is probably not for you.  

But if you are able to put aside your expectations and meet these kids at their level, on their terms, then you might be the perfect candidate. 

Matt Vassar, Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Matt, whose academic specialty is statistics, is a mentor at the Tulsa Boys' Home.

Personal communication, 9-5-14

Teaching Math & Science with Results

Branding and Values
This creative two-week summer camp with innovative teaching of math and science was a phenomenal success. Math scores rose 35%. Youths had fun, too. Plans are underway to use the model for after-school. 

This high energy, productive model can easily be adapted without Biblical references for the values. Renee Spears, one of the authors and co-founders, sent us a copy of a student math binder. The concept she and Ginger created works. They plan to expand the concept to other academic areas. A must read!

Ponca City hosted its first two week Math, Science, and Bible Character Camp at Harmony Baptist Church this July 19 to August 1, 2014. The Northern Oklahoma Academic Tutoring Foundation, a nonprofit foundation started by the late Ron Hartman to promote and assist tutoring for Ponca City's students, sponsored the camp. The camp ran from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Friday, with 40 students from the public school enrolled. 

Enrollment forms were taken to the schools at the first of August. Those returning the sheet with confirmation of attendance or declining received a turkey feather from a turkey that had been harvested that hunting season.  A video of fainting goats was shown along with a description of other animals that would be attending the camp.

Reader's Theater
Geometry anyone?
Of the 40 enrolled, 32 students attended, and 27 were there every day. A pre-test and a post-test were given to the students to assess their math skills.  This included a multiplication sheet of the facts with no "twins" to prevent overwhelming the students.  The test was designed as well as the math books that the students used through the weeks by Ginger Henley and Renee Spears, both teachers at Ponca City schools.  

The math books consisted of one of every problem that a student encounters in third grade math curriculum. The students repetitiously worked through 25 pages of problems through the two weeks, beginning over at the first page each day.  Problem sheets were cleverly inserted into plastic sleeves in a binder so students could work the problems with a non-permanent marker and then wipe off the answers. A lesson was briefly taught each day on a new math skill to review or enlighten the students.


The students began the day with Great Expectation practices of recitation with a quote, "We are conqueror of our destiny, not victims of our circumstances, and a motto, "I will not take personally what others say or do, it is a reflection of them, not me." Then they would learn a new character trait with a Bible verse each day, totaling 11 character trait cumulatively by the end of the two weeks.  

They would also learn that the power to live these character traits came only from God. The traits that come easily were their personality, not character. Character is when everything that you are does not want to do something, but you do it anyway because it is right. 

High school students assisted
The students were given the knowledge of how to have this relationship with God and who they are once that is established. They were also taught about the Armor of God and how to use it to protect who they are. Short testimonials were given by high school student workers of these practices being effective in their lives.

After opening, they began a rotation of seven centers lasting 25 minutes a piece. These centers consisted of a science center, art center, math workbook center, multiplication facts center, reader's theater center, recreation and animal center, and snack center. The curriculum for these centers was developed by Ginger and Renee. 

Animals were an integral part of the fun.The students had visits from fainting goats, gave a horse a bath, groomed a miniature horse, watched a tarantula crawl on the head of a worker, watched the sheering of a sheep, and a fish being cleaned, and collected and touched feathers of different Oklahoma water fowl. Also, examples of instruments played by the high school was integrated through the week.
One of the summer camp stars--a bass fish!

Ginger's son, Noah, caught for the program, a bass, 
Oklahoma's state fish. 
The teachers dissected the fish and 
then kept the meat to cook. 
The kids were besides themselves.  
Some wanted to keep the liver, heart, etc. 
It was a riot!   

An important part of our educational philosophy is that you have to have a child's heart before you can have his or her mind. This concept was the identifying theme of the camp.

Hands-on experiments
At the end of each day of the camp, a different student group would perform a skit that had previously been performed by the leaders at the opening and then practiced during Reader's Theater center. Character traits, the motto, and the quote would be reviewed along with a skit about bullying and bullying skills. For example, say, "Oh, really, hmm," and then walk away, feel the pain and go on.
"Eat this, not that!"

Crackers make learning more fun and tasty!
Finally, there were 27 students that attended every day. The students were given a peacock feather, donated by a peacock farm, if they did not miss a day. The test scores were only used from those 27. The results of the test showed a 35% increase in math skills over the two weeks.  The students mastered their character traits, motto, quote and bullying skills.  

The camp was dismissed with 32 student raising their right arm high and cheering," We are conquerors of our destiny, not victims of our circumstances!" in front of a parent group of 60 that attended the closing ceremony where certificates were handed out. Funds for the camp were provided by Northern Oklahoma Academic Tutoring Foundation.

For more information on the program, contact Renee Spears at

Personal communication, 9-15-14

Renee's oldest son, Nicholas, 
and the family's miniature horse, Boo.  
The kids love him.  
They can learn grooming with him and 
aren't so afraid because of his size.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kipling's "If" as a Tool to Adulthood, III

Kipling by John Collier
Many of us remember Kipling for his The Jungle Book and also Kim. Mentors and mentees can research more about Kipling and his writings.

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)
If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

As promised, the story behind Kipling's poem...

The remarkable story behind Rudyard Kipling's 'If' - and the swashbuckling renegade who inspired it
UPDATED: 20:11 EST, 15 February 2009

Ret. 9-2-14

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kipling's "If" as a Tool to Adulthood, II

This NEWSOK article explains some practical application of how the poem "If" benefited high school youths in everyday life. The poem follows in the next post.
The Turpen poetry society
By Robert Przybylo • Published: November 23, 2007
Nothing is off limits when it comes to getting prepared for big games.
Some rock out to sports anthems. Some bounce to the latest beats. Others find their own personal zone and concentrate.

But football players at Bishop McGuinness and Heritage Hall have found a new way: poetry. And there's one poem in particular they can recite line-for-line any time, any place: "If” by Rudyard Kipling.

Challenged by Oklahoma City attorney and former Oklahoma attorney general Mike Turpen to be more than just football stars, members of both squads have stepped up to the plate.

Irish players Ryan Randolph, Niki Bray and Patrick Turpen as well as cross country runner John Vater have joined forces with Heritage Hall's Ford Price, David Price and Turner Petersen to form a poetry group. Anchoring the group is McGuinness graduate and Oklahoma junior Jack Randolph.

While there is no tangible effect to each team's 12-0 start, Heritage Hall has adopted the final line of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” as the team motto: And miles to go before we sleep.

"Whether it's the (poetry) group or a game, there's no stopping or slowing down,” Petersen said. "We have a ways to go before we're where we want to be. But we're working our way there.”

Mike Turpen said Kipling's poem has inspired him throughout his entire life, especially during his political days.

He was looking for a way to inspire the next generation of kids and found the values instilled in "If” are applicable no matter where you are in life.

"This is just great stuff, from beginning to end,” Turpen said. "You would be surprised at just how much wisdom is found in those four verses.”

Turpen sent out the poem to various members of both schools and seven of the eight answered the call. It wasn't until later that Petersen joined the group.

"I thought it was a bold move to do something like this,” said Patrick Turpen, Mike's son. "We weren't sure what we were getting into.”

But the boys don't regret accepting Mike Turpen's challenge and look forward to the twice-a-semester meetings.

They gather at the Turpen house and recite the poem to the group. They discuss how the poem speaks to them, and that's where the real gems are found.

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!”
— excerpt from "If”

The poem speaks to the Price cousins maybe more than anybody else. David Price was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. He had a tumor in his back that hemorrhaged into his spinal fluid.

"It was real tough,” Price said. "There were times when I really wanted to give up. But you read the poem, and the words are so strong.”

Mike Turpen's reward to the boys is $100 if they can recite the poem to him. It was that reward which led Ford Price to accepting the challenge, but it became much more than that.

Ford broke his ankle and gathered strength from Kipling's words.

"All the sudden, the money didn't mean that much to me,” Ford said. "But the power of the words stayed with me.”

Now in its second year, the boys are on their third poem. After conquering Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in The Arena,” next up is Frost's poem.

"I want to show that they can be anything they want to be,” Mike Turpen said. "You can blend athletics and academics — you don't need to limit yourself. They can be modern Renaissance men.”

Seeing how balanced and well-rounded the boys are, Petersen asked to join the group earlier this year.

"This is an honor,” Petersen, a junior wide receiver, said.

The results are reflected on the gridiron, the classroom and everywhere else.

"I was really nervous before the first couple of games,” Bray said. "But the poem helped me relax and kept me focused.”

Vater appreciated Roosevelt's speech so much he had it put on the back of the McGuinness cross country T-shirt this year.

"When it's game time, it's easy to focus on the task at hand,” Ryan Randolph said. "But the power of the words is at practice. Those days when you just don't feel like going out there, but you do. And you still give it your best.”

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;
— excerpt from "If”

Mike Turpen said it's these two lines that have driven him when things are tough. It's the same lines that Bray said speaks to him the most.

"It's such a strong message but a tough one to follow,” Bray said. "Don't get too high after a win and don't get too low after a loss — know that everything happens for a reason.”

Mike Turpen said while he mentors the group, Jack Randolph has become the unquestioned leader. He's the one the boys look up to, Turpen said.

"There's something special and pure about having something down to memory like this,” Jack Randolph said. "Not too long ago, I used the poem to help me study for a quiz. It can be used in ways that you just don't expect.”

And the boys have been tested at this. While at a Hornets game at the Ford Center, a stranger asked Bray if he was one of the boys in the poetry club. When Bray responded yes, the stranger asked for lines from the poem. With no hesitation, Bray recited the lines flawlessly.

Ford Price has used the poem for strength during a job interview.

But no one has a more unusual story than Ryan Randolph. While in traffic court for a seat belt infraction, the judge said he would waive the fine if Randolph could recite Kipling's poem.

Randolph started to when the judge told Ryan to turn around and say the poem to the audience.

"After something like that, practicing against Midwest City is nothing in comparison,” Randolph said.

Said Mike Turpen: "It's not just words — it's a life philosophy. These are not just boys – this is a brotherhood.”  
Ret. 9-2-14

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kipling's "If" as a Tool to Adulthood, I

In thinking about perseverance and passages into adulthood, I remembered this story. Discussing this poem's application to life and then memorizing and recounting it in times of conflict are priceless whether you like poetry or not. 

The next post is also about more about application, and the entire poem and a link to the story behind it follow that. This is one illustration of what a mentor or a group of mentors can do to inspire and support mentees.

Mike Turpen is a father, husband, lawyer, former Attorney General of Oklahoma, a supporter of the performing arts, a civic leader, and co-commentator on Flashpoint, a television show in the Oklahoma City metro area. What matters here is that he is a father and mentor.

Caption: THE POETRY CLUB meets on the upstairs terrace at Susan and Mike Turpen's home. The group formed last year when Mike challenged his son and six others to memorize Rudyard Kipling's poem "If." Mike offered a cash incentive. From left, standing: Jack Randolph, Nik Bray, Patrick Turpen; seated: Ford Price III, Johnny Vater, Ryan Randolph, Mike Turpen, David Price and the Turpen's dog, Stoopsie. Foto by Vicki Clark



Words are powerful. Committed to heart, words can change lives. When Mike Turpen challenged his son and six friends to memorize the poem “If,” he wisely assumed money would motivate them to get with it. He promised $100 to each one who could recite the poem to him from memory.

When one of them entered the hospital fighting for his life, the others brought a copy of IF to his bedside.

Last fall, David Price found himself in Children’s Hospital with Spinal Meningitis; stayed two weeks, four days home, back in the hospital for surgery and another week. Then he traveled to M.D. Anderson in Houston for radiation therapy.

“We almost lost him,” said Mike. “It was a tough fight for him.

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!”

“Hold on,” became the Poetry Club mantra. David found strength in the verse above, fought the illness, when it would have been easier to succumb, and he recovered.

The Poetry Club, formed in the spring of 2006, became something special in their lives. Six high school sophomores from McGuinness and Heritage Hall: Patrick Turpen, Niki Bray, David Price, Ford Price III, Ryan Randolph, Johnny Vater and OU sophomore Jack Randolph comprise the group. Five of them attended Westminster School together and the other two were friends.

Stop any one of them anywhere, any time, and ask them to recite “IF” for you. They will, not in a sing-song memorized way, but with real feeling.

Mike Turpen’s mother recited poetry to her three sons from his earliest memory. He loved “The Highwayman” and “The Night Before Christmas.”

Mike began to memorize poems and “If” is one of his favorites.

“It (IF) gives unique insight into life in just a few verses,” Turpen said.

“My Dad has done a lot of stuff like this in the past,” Patrick Turpen said. “He makes us work and gives a rightful reward.”

Patrick thought he had the last laugh on his Dad for this task.

“I memorized the poem while I was on the payroll at his law firm. So I got more out of it than the rest of them.”

John Vater said, It was different. I’m not used to memorizing outside school. It was interesting and worth doing.”

OU sophomore Jack Randolph learned the poem by acting it out in front of the mirror. He estimates it took a total of 6 hours over 15 different occasions. He liked the acting part so well, he tried out and won a part in a play.

“Scholar athlete turned actor,” crowed Mike Turpen, who is pleased the poem has impacted the young men’s lives in so many different ways.

Ryan Randolph has strangers coming up to him and asking him to recite “IF” after a local television station did a story on the boys, “It’s a good foundation to build on.”

David Price said the $100 was his original motivation, but the real value of memorizing the poem came during his hospitalization with Spinal Meningitis.

“If you think out the words, it can help you do a lot of stuff that seems impossible.”

Ford Price III memorized the poem on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, “There was a long line at customs, so I pulled out the poem and started working on it. I learned the first part, then memorized the rest of it on the plane coming home.”

Nik Bray said, “I’m proud I memorized the poem. It’s really long, but it had a deep meaning after Mr. Turpen explained how poetry helped him.”

Mike told the boys when he lost the Governor’s race he thought about the lines, If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same; he was able to laugh and go on with his life.

The boys are working on The Man in The Area by President Theodore Roosevelt now. Mike’s buying dinner at Mickey Mantle’s Sunday night. Anyone who can recite the new poem will get $50 from Mike.

Nik Bray has already memorized and recited for Mike.

“I needed the $50 for spring break,” Nik said.

Mike Turpen believes the boys “still have a lot of ‘ifs’ in their lives,” and that the poetry will help them as much as it has him. 
Ret, 9-2-14