Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Say Boom? What Nike and Casady have in common...

In my 9th grade English class, we talk a lot about the Boom factor.

The Boom factor is introducing your topic in an intriguing way.

It's grabbing your reader and pulling them in from the opening sentence.

It's writing your opening paragraph with this Nike commercial in the back of your mind.

At a school like Casady, where we are known as THE "college prep" school in the state, we traditionally love to wow people with our prestigious list of colleges and universities.

Ivies like Dartmouth and Penn.

Public Ivies like UC-Berkeley and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Say Boom?

It's easy then at an event like this Open House for us to use Nike-like marketing tactics.

Because let's face it.

Talking about Ted M. and his American Idol future after he graduates from Vandy - can you say Boom!?

Or Olivia B. and her bright future as an intellectual in the field of philosophy/literature after she graduates from a school like the University of Chicago. Can you say Boom!?

But what this kind of marketing approach does is only reinforce the "Casady sterotype."

And that is...

We only teach and coach and counsel to the top.

We care more about prestige than people.

We have only one type of student who matriculate to one stripe of school.

And that we measure success by only one rubric - the US News and World Report: College Edition.

Now, yes, we do have students who experience success by getting into these top ranked schools.

But the Ted M's of our community don't apply there because of a ranking.

Ted applies to Vandy because he feels the fit. He has this gut sense that he'll flourish there.

So the truth is this:

We don't start the college journey with rankings.

We start the college adventure with your thumbprint.

Take a moment, in fact, to look at that fascinating slab of skin on your thumb.

What do you see?

Concentric rings that coil out - each centrifugal ring revealing a passion, a gift, a propensity, an ability, a potentiality.

What we do then at Casady involves matching your individualized thumbprint with colleges that believe you put a positive imprint on their community.

You see, while we are a college prep school, we are also a college match school.

And our overarching mission is to help each student find the best college fit.

Our statistics certainly speak to our mission's success.

Over the past four years, 100% of our graduates have been accepted to a total of 250 colleges and universities (220 private/50 public).

Overall, our acceptance rate has shot up in four years from 40% to 74%.

And our merit money has gone from $500,ooo to $3.6 million.

But, you know what, it's the stories that energize me.

Especially the narratives of the students who started the college process with fear.

The kind of fear we all face when we think about prom and the prospect of going stag.

But came late April, these same students have more prom date offers than they know what to do with.

They are suddenly cursed with too many college choices.

The story of Molly comes to mind, for example.

In one hand Molly holds her acceptance letter to Austin College.

There she can pursue her passion for Chinese in a Language House.

Travel abroad and study Chinese politics in Tienanmen Square.

In the other hand Molly has her letter and scholarship offer from Arkansas.

Her 3.25 GPA/24 ACT qualified her for in-state tuition.

At Arkansas, Molly can drink deep of SEC culture.

Pledge Theta.

Get a business degree in the Sam Walton School of Business where literally thousands of companies recruit.

And take road trips with girlfriends down to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

Or it is the story of Big Brian.

To meet him is to love him.

He instantly reminds you of Jack Black's character in Kung Fu Panda.

Brian's passion is film.

Studying the old masterpieces like Citizen Kane.

Writing screenplays.

Directing, producing, photographing, and editing films.

Brian's college essay was on how 3-D movies are destroying the quality of film making.

How cool and original is that?

In one hand, then, Brain holds his acceptance letter to LMU.

From day one at LMU, Brian can work in the studio labs,

state-of-the-art edit bays,

carry a camera around,

with Hollywood in his back yard as a kind of sand box.

Or Brain could stay at home.

Making his momma happy.

Save money for graduate school.

Go to OU.

Join a frat.

Spend Saturday's in the autumn tailgating and cheering on his beloved Sooners.

Not to mention still get a degree in film from our flagship university,

while taking courses at O trip C where Brian can continue to study under Greg Mellott, a former USC film professor, along with Gray Frederickson, a producer on Godfather, where Brian could continue to use the Red Camera, a $250,000 camera used in films like The Book of Eli.

These are the stories and the predicaments that I live for here.

And in the end, it's the stories of Molly and Brian, along with the Ted's and Olivia's - these stories represent the BIGGER BOOM at Casady.