Daniel Solis working with students.

Posted: November 14, 2016

This week I wanted to share a more personal story with you that started last year at CHS graduation. After the ceremony, a former student of mine, Daniel Solis, from Fort Vancouver High School approached me on the field. A little background—Daniel drove me crazy in school. He always seemed to be avoiding class and work. I probably uttered the words, “go to class” no fewer than 180 days each year for four years so 720 times?! When I spoke with Daniel at graduation, he was working 50-60 hours per week at a food distribution company. He told me it was a pretty good job with benefits, but he felt stuck there. He wanted to have more purpose. He wanted to make a difference. He asked me what he should do.

Some more background—even though Daniel drove me crazy, I always knew he had a huge heart and that service was important to him. We often talked about who and what made a difference for him. I remember a story he told me several times about a school counselor who delivered presents to their apartment during the holidays. Daniel’s parents immigrated to the USA, and things were tight—the family very much appreciated the kindness. Daniel’s family began taking care of that counselor’s yard, just showing up and helping out. Their relationship with her, which started from that act of kindness, spanned more than a decade.

Daniel asked about working with students, wanting to make the same kind of difference that others had made for him. I suggested that he fill out the classified substitute application. Up came a two-hour position at Liberty, and Daniel took a leap of faith. He quit his job and started in the position. He took on a second job working nights at a hotel to make ends meet. He was so excited about making a difference.

Last Wednesday I checked in with him and asked him how it was going. We talked about the world. We talked about our community. We talked about his JOY. “I think I’m meant for this,” he said. “I love helping students start to pick up things. I love telling them, “I see you.” I’ve got a lot to learn about how to do this work, but I get to learn from all these great people like Brandie, Whitney, Ms. Munoz, and Ms. Marcell and many more. Mr. Snell, I’m going to go after it.”

He ended with this: “The only thing we can do is a make a difference in our own world, and I am so excited that I get to do that at Liberty with our students.”

Here’s to finding HOPE & JOY this week and making a difference in our world.

Jeff Snell