Several years ago UWGNH was facing a very difficult annual campaign and we decided that we needed to bring the volunteers and staff together to build a high performance team. We decided to take the group for a day long adventure at the “ropes course” at the Hopkins School. The course is set up as a series of challenges that require strategy and teamwork. The group was doing very well balancing a seesaw, trusting each other while blindfolded and the other challenges and we all thought “this is no problem”-- until we came to the wall. The wall was twelve feet high and was flat as a board. The challenge was to get the entire team to the top of the wall. We were a mixed group of older, younger, male and female and one team member who was over 300 pounds.
We looked at the wall and we looked at each other and felt a deep sense of dread and fear. How were we going to get all of us to the top of the wall was the question that showed on everyone’s face. Fear spread quickly and the team spirit we had built all day was starting to waver. One of the volunteers took leadership and called us all together to plan how we were going to work together to succeed with this challenge. The approach showed up clearly after we looked at the problem, identified our strengths and weaknesses and determined our roles. We sent the three strongest to the top to help pull people up. We then tackled our hardest challenge—getting our largest member to the top of the twelve foot wall. What we discovered was inspiring. When we all worked together and planned who was going to stand where and made sure everyone knew when to lift, we were able to boost her high enough to be pulled over the wall.
We have set very challenging goals for education reform in New Haven. Succeeding with these goals will take the focused resources and unwavering will of our leaders, our citizens and our community institutions. However, we have the vision, we have the values and we have the commitment. We will give our young people the boost they need to succeed.