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Achievement Curriculum: Module 1: Student Handout

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Elie Wiesel
Nobel Prize for Peace

Elie Wiesel: Sensitivity. Be sensitive in every way possible about everything in life. Be sensitive. Insensitivity brings indifference and nothing is worse than indifference. Indifference makes that person dead before the person dies. Indifference means there is a kind of apathy that sets in and you no longer appreciate beauty, friendship, goodness, or anything.

[ Interview ] Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel believes that a good character requires sensitivity to the world around you and to other people. Being indifferent not only makes you unable to appreciate things but uncaring about others. Select a project below to further investigate the qualities of character.

  • How do you know sensitivity and caring when you see it? What does it look like? Make a list of actions that manifest sensitivity and caring to others. Select a novel or short story that had a positive impact on your life. Write a review of this work focusing on the sensitivity and caring attributes of the characters. Which characters did you respect? Why? Which character had the highest level of integrity? What was the author saying about the importance of being sensitive and caring for others?
  • It's likely some people in your community believe that teenagers are only focused on themselves and really don't care much about anyone else. In what ways do you agree or disagree with this point of view? Research national and local programs that support caring and service oriented action. Collect evidence of teenagers' involvement in activities that show their sensitivity to other's needs. Use your information to develop a multimedia presentation that describes an example and program that you found especially inspiring.

Daniel S. Goldin
Space Exploration

I feel anyone who believes in themselves, anyone who has a dream burned into their brain -- and what the dream is, I don't know -- but as long as they have a direction and they carry it out, and when they have failure they say, "God, what a blessing! I learned! I'll never do that again," those are the people who have success.

[ Interview ] Daniel Goldin

Daniel Goldin talks about the importance of believing in yourself. Individuals with character have the diligence and courage to work toward a dream in spite of failures and setbacks. They see failures as learning opportunities instead of opportunities to complain and give up. Select a project that explores these important character traits.

  • Select an event in your life in which you showed you could do something very challenging to achieve a goal. Write a first person narrative describing this experience. Focus on the qualities of character that helped you believe in yourself and overcome barriers in the way to your goal. What did you learn from this experience? What advice would you give others based on your challenging but successful experience?
  • Sometimes the opinions of peers weaken our ability to follow a dream and risk failure to achieve it. It's difficult to believe in yourself when others doubt you, but that is often what is required. It's difficult to set high goals that are risky when lower goals would more likely assure success. Make a list of ways -- verbal comments, actions, and even facial expressions that people can use to erode a person's belief in him or herself. Write a one act play or short story that illustrates the effects of other's opinions on a person's dreams. Highlight the qualities of character that help a person stay fast to their dreams.
  • People who believe in themselves are often people dedicated to action - to making a difference. Research programs in which teens are working for national or local social action causes to make their communities better places in which to live. Write a newspaper article that describes a program that is particularly interesting to you. Profile a teen involved in the project and describe steps to take in making this program a reality in your school or community.

Antonia Novello, M.D.
Former Surgeon General of the United States

If you do not know where you're going, you are already there. The second thing is the world owes you nothing. To believe that the world will get you everything you want because you're a good kid and you studied is like believing that a bull is not going to hit you because you're a vegetarian. So, you must be able to do good. The third one is take a stand and believe in something. And those were the words of Goethe. Goethe said, "The hottest space in hell will be saved for those that during the time of conflict decided to stay neutral." So take a stand. But the most important one is number four, which is what has been said many times by some members of the academy. Service is the rent you pay for living, and that service is what sets you apart. Service to God, to the country, to the community, and to yourself. But most importantly, service. So, when you do all those four, absolutely the American dream will be found, and you will be part of it.

[ Interview ] Antonia Novello

Dr. Antonia Novello believes in the importance of taking a stand. She encourages young people to get involved in making a difference. Select a project below that ties service to character and supports her belief that service is the thing that "sets you apart."

  • You've heard the sayings "It matters what you do" and "One person can make a big difference." Do you have a cause? Saving an endangered animal? Stopping hate crimes? Helping young children learn to read? Feeding the homeless? Write a quick list of causes you are interested in and a description of all the times you have been involved in a community action project. Select one cause that you would like to research and pursue further. Conduct research about how to get involved locally and nationally with other teens who share your interest. Develop an action plan for the next three months that will require you to take a stand.
  • Assume that your local high school requires each student to complete 200 hours of community service to graduate. What are the pros and cons of this requirement? Write an editorial that presents your point of view.
  • Read a biography of a famous person who dedicated their lives to service. How did they improve peoples' lives? What kind of character did they demonstrate in their work? Make a multimedia poster that highlights this person's achievements.

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