FPS Alumni Testimonials
Future Problem Solving Program has been fortunate to be a part of the lives of so many wonderful people. Here are some of their stories:
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Charlie K. Dawson
Welcome to the Future!
In 8th grade you hardly ever imagine with clarity what your future will hold. What you do think about, quite frequently are the relationships with your friends, your social standing and of course, the activities that fill your days and captivate your attention.
In 1981 my friends were Laura Pochop and Molly Shonka. They were more than my friends, they were my teammates on Mission Junior High School’s Future Problem Solving team. You are certain to never have heard of it, but it was legendary in my mind at the time and occasionaly, when I wax nostalgic, still is to this day. We were going ALL THE WAY, all the way to nationals . . . all the way to fame and glory. All the way to a future where we would solve problems of herculean proportion and each make our mark on the world. We were going to rise above our individual circumstances and shake both heaven and earth to their very foundations to better the world for all of humanity.
We were young, bright, verbal, funny and of course; strangely outgoing for a bunch of nerds. Future problem solving fit us all quite well even though we were each unique, on different paths. Molly and Laura were both more studious than I was, a little more serious too. Georgeous girls, each in their own ways, I bounced my way between conflicting crushes for most of that year and returned to such remembrances during some of the darker moments of my future life as yet unimagined by the younger me.
I was the only boy in 8th grade invited to Molly’s birthday party, a showing of, “On Golden Pond” and while I wasn’t completely enraptured of the movie, my heart did beat faster everytime her arm brushed mine in the theater. That was a highlight for me – and that she later grew into a great beauty that my parochial high-school friends tortured me for having never pursued, only sweetened my memory of that moment of possibility.
Like most things of youth, my crushes faded and along with them the relationships. We all went to different schools, moved to different states, went our separate ways. We never did win Nationals, but did see states a time or two. None of us fell in love with the other, except maybe a little in our secret hearts during the sweaty sleepless nights of teenage angst.
I became an outsider as I struggled to grow into a man of integrity, of courage and of character and I spent more than a few years lost in the dark, afraid I would never find my way. It seems as if the girls fared better having started so much further ahead than me and made the passage into adulthood with alacrity and aplomb. I didn’t keep in touch with them, but ocassionally received a nuggets of information from an old acquaintance so I knew they were still overachieveing, still shining.
A couple of years ago I was reviewing what I had made of my life, a thing many men staring at 40 do. I thought back to those days of Future Problem Solving and the group of extraordinary young people who had assembled with limitless optimism intent of making a difference in the world in that little school in the small town of Bellevue, Nebraska oh so many years ago. I thought about what we had learned and examined the microcosm of methodologies practiced and experiences gained and wondered for the thousandth time if the impact we had each hoped to make had in any way been realized.
I was by now, a grownup. Married, with 4 children two of them in college. Author of more than a couple of books, founder of 3 companies, president of a consulting firm. I was living on the gulf coast of Florida seeming to have everything, yet wondering if my successes were in anyway shared by my old teammates, those long gone friends of mine who had as much promise yet infinitely more wisdom than I.
So I tracked them down.
Laura had grown to become the Executive director of a non-profit organization focused on teaming societies successful elites with disadvantaged youth in a manner that proved its value repeatedly as it brought parity to the world she served. She eventually moved on to rejuvinate a small family market in her neigborhood near San Francisco to uphold the continuity of community identity and play a key role in fostering a sense of belonging to the world she had chosen to raise her family in. While different in scope than her original organization, in some ways Mulberry’s Market touches a slightly smaller world more deeply than any large enterprise could even if only to say, “neighborhoods ARE communities worth saving”.
I eventually discovered Molly (now Molly French) and her husband in the DC area where Molly owned and managed Potomac Health Consultancy which specialized in helping prominent national organizations advance their health, healthcare, and social policy agendas. Molly was spending her time, educating policymakers and practitioners via research reports and online communications, compiling and providing compelling cases for policy and program investments and assisting organizations to optimize stakeholder relationships and prove the value of their concepts and positions.
My firm focuses on assisting non-profit hospitals in becoming financially viable without resorting to reductions in care quality or downsizing of staff. We donate over 80% of our time to organizations who, because of their missions, put themselves in financial harm’s way to ensure that quality healthcare is available to America’s neediest citizens.
So I’d say, “Yeah . . . we’re having an impact”. Is it everything we dreamed it would be at 13? I’m not sure. Yet each of us has managed to make a name for ourselves while finding a way to express our desire to help others and change the world. We are each owners of businesses, heck, you might even say we are serial entrepreneurs. We have families and relationships that tie us to our country and ground us firmly in our ideals. We are solving problems, some big, some little, all important.
What we once thought of as the future has become the present. Where children huddled dreaming of making a difference, today stand adults reaching out with power, authority and financial standing coaxing those dreams to fruition.
Welcome to the future!
Charlie K Dawson
Cpl. Josh Scaife
A Letter to a Former Teacher
As you know, I've been in Afghanistan for the past year, and it's drawing to a close. I just figured I should let you know that I'm doing well. I'm sorry for not keeping touch as much as I should have. I told Brooke to stop in a while back and let you know that I was OK. Recently I've been involved in many raids, helicopter insertions, missions involving taking over compounds for extended periods of time, and missions with special forces and recon. As you can imagine, I've been in quite a few predicaments. That being said, I wanted to thank you for giving me the problem solving mindset. Granted, it is just one small aspect of your curriculum, but the fact that you stand by it so strongly does in fact give people the skills they need later on in life.
A few months ago I was on a mission with the Brits. We were supposed to be raiding a town that was known to have quite a few Taliban. Upon our arrival I meet up with the squad that we're going to be pushing through the town with and we began to walk. About 1/4 of the way through the town we started getting small arms fire from the way we were walking as well as the way we had just come from. Quickly, all of us took cover in a compound. we eliminated the threat from inside and hunkered down. While everyone was trying to frantically find a way out I had thought of the six step process...although I didn't have time to write all of our challenges I already had the UP in my head. I thought of a bunch of solutions and weighed them out in my head. I then pitched the idea that I thought was best suited for the situation based on the parameters that were already presented. We ended up putting a charge of c4 on the back of the compound and blasting a hole in the back of it instead of attempting to suppress the threat out the main entrance. We bounded out of the town providing suppressive fire and got back to our vehicles with no casualties.
Granted there are a lot of people that said it was just an idea, I know it was because my brain was taught to think in a problem solving manner. I hope to drop by in December when I come home, but I figured you may like to know that despite being away from your teaching for a few years, you're still impacting me. Thank you for being patient with me despite my reluctance to be taught. I know I wasn't the best student, but I greatly appreciate the fact that you never gave up on us.
Cpl Josh Scaife
Hi - I just came across your website, I was thinking of great
experiences from my past with FPS, I was involved for the 2 years when I lived in Michigan.
I went on to earn my Master's degree in Philosophy from UC Irvine, then start a nonprofit of my own teaching kids to play chess (we taught 250,000 kids to play chess in 10 years!) - I believe much of the influence for my later success came from the great encouragement you gave me! Thank you for teaching me to believe that I could do anything!