By Rachel M. Anderson, RMA Publicity
(St. Paul) - When former bank executive Rob Severson wrote his latest book, Achievers: Ordinary People Who Do Extraordinary Things, he envisioned it one day being used as a school resource to inspire young people. He had no idea how quickly his concept would take off.
Immediately after learning about the book at the end of the 2013-1014 school year, Bryan Bass, Principal at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus in St. Paul, decided to incorporate the text into his school’s AVID program, which this year has 55 seventh and eighth graders in it. AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities.
“The book will be used in connection with the Conversation Series, in which students hear success stories of ordinary people,” said Bass, who considers Achievers: Ordinary People Who Do Extraordinary Things the perfect fit for the program’s curriculum. The book shares the stories of more than two dozen achievers from all walks of life, and the 55 AVID students at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus aren’t the only ones who will be exposed to the stories in Achievers this school year.
“We have over 250 seventh and eighth grade students that will participate in the conversation series. We hope that AVID students from other middle schools from the District will join us each month,” he said. The Conversation Series is aligned to the AVID college readiness system's approach to connecting students with many guest speakers who share their college and career story.
“The goal is for students to hear real life stories of local professionals overcoming adversity to achieve their career goals,” said Bass who goes on to explain that educators “are trying to shift our 7th and 8th graders’ thinking from ‘school is a space where I have to be compliant’ to ‘school is a place where I learn how to compete and be successful for college and a career.”
Author Rob Severson is a well-respected businessman in the Twin Cities who considered himself a classic under-achiever when he was in school. He credits mentors with helping him find his way to the top, and is hoping to return the favor for today’s youth. Severson had worked his way up to president of a bank subsidiary.
“Over the years I have gone into schools and shared my story. Over and over again I noticed that when the kids heard that I was an underachiever who had made something of myself, they perked up. I think a lot of them could relate to my story,” said Severson. Also realizing the kids he most wanted to reach are more likely to tune into ordinary people like themselves than the rich and famous, Severson sought out achievers for the book he thought his intended readers would admire and believe they could emulate.
Among the people interviewed for Achievers: Ordinary People Who Do Extraordinary Things, Korey Dean who started life in poverty, but went on to make something of himself. He was nominated for a Grammy for his hip-hop/rap recording in 2013. Also featured is Candy Swanson, a martial arts instructor and self-defense teacher, who despite the hardships she faced in life was willing to do whatever it took to provide for her family.
“I see Achievers as a text we are going to come back to throughout the year to continue deepening student planning and reflection on their goals and thinking about their adversity. Thinking about their resilience. Thinking about the discipline and hard work that is needed for them to be successful,” said Bass. “I see it as the battery pack they go back to from time-to-time to fuel them for achieving the goals they have set this year, and will set in the future.”
In addition to reading and discussing the stories in the book throughout the school year, students will also have the opportunity to meet some of the people profiled in the book. “This book is a perfect complement to the college and career readiness work of the AVID program,” said Bass.
About Rob Severson
Rob Severson is a former bank executive who since 1990 has owned and operated a consulting business where he specializes in helping people obtain financing solutions for their business. He is also an accomplished speaker.
Among the topics he speaks on, the key to building successful relationships, how
to love your job and make a living and how to find inner peace. “A team can’t win unless it has all winners. That’s kind of my philosophy. Our country will do better if we’re all willing to find opportunities and do whatever it takes to succeed,” says Severson, who has shared this insight with students at schools throughout the Twin Cities.
Severson is hoping to continue the conversation by sharing the stories of the people profiled in his latest book,
Achievers: Ordinary People Who Do Extraordinary Things.