Learning the importance of making the right choices

Dec 23, 2021 | Front Page

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

How many of us have made choices when we were young that we came to regret later in life?

Learning the importance of making the right choices is the message of the Choices program presented recently to juniors and seniors at Mountain High School: the importance of an education; how to present yourself at a job interview; proper time management; setting smart goals.

The Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club has been offering this program to students in the Rim district for 24 years, presenters Geoffrey Hopper and Laura Dyberg told the students.

“I believe in this program,” Dyberg said. “I believe it makes a difference. I wish I had had an experience like this when I was your age.”

Using an old rotary phone as a prop, Hopper asked the first of many volunteers how many apps that phone has. The answer was, of course, none. An iPhone, however, has countless apps available.

“We are like the phones,” Hopper said. “The more apps you have, the more choices. It’s up to you whether you make them interactive.”

He went on to tell the students that studies show they will make major choices in the next two to three years.
Three more volunteers – Mario, Xavier and Brian – helped Dyberg illustrate the number of years the students have facing them by unrolling a timeline. As toddlers, they acknowledged, they had few choices to make themselves. As high school students, they decide whether to get out of bed, whether to brush their teeth.

“The tiny choices you make every day have consequences,” Dyberg said. And then, after high school, there are more choices to make: whether to go to college or some other higher education, whether to go directly into the workforce, whether to join the military.

“Those choices affect you the rest of your life,” Dyberg told the students.

Hopper talked with the students about 30 primary factors that “will determine who you will be.” He asked them to circle those they feel they have control over. Some – like ethnicity, height and order of birth – they can do nothing about. But others – like activities, appearance, attitude – the students can control.

Of all the factors listed, Hopper said, the most important one is self-discipline.

Principal Dave Nygren commented that he liked the friends factor. “Friends can bring you up or take you down. Do they support your decisions to be good or do they try to push you down? True friends should want you to improve your life.”

As for the jobs they may get in the future, Dyberg took the students through an exercise that demonstrated what is available to a high school dropout, a high school graduate and someone with education beyond high school.

While money was part of the discussion, Dyberg reminded the students that money is not always the answer. “Your quality of life, doing something you’re passionate about is important,” she said.

In the end, the volunteer with education beyond high school was eligible for three times as many jobs as the high school dropout.

Then, illustrating how far a minimum-wage job will take a person, Hopper gave volunteer Emily $2,580, the amount she would earn in a month at $15 an hour. Other volunteers stepped forward to collect rent, utilities, money for food and transportation, insurance.

Even at $15 an hour, Hopper noted, her money didn’t last long and, in fact, she was left with nothing.

On the second day of the Choices program, Hopper played the part of someone being interviewed for a job. He demonstrated what not to do – slouching, checking his phone. “You should show what you can contribute,” he said. “Sell yourself.”

Moving on to time management, Hopper and Dyberg made the point that everyone has the same amount of time available to them every day. How you spend those 24 hours is up to you.

The students decided if certain activities were required with no flexibility, if others were not optional but may be flexible and if still others were both optional and flexible. They filled a jar with rocks for the first, gravel for the second and sand for the last.

“If you only fill your day with rocks,” Dyberg said, “you forget about taking time for yourself and the things you enjoy.” She suggested the students keep track of their rocks, gravel and sand on the calendar on their phones. “Mix them in and fill your time responsibly,” she said.

The program concluded with the Choices Challenge game show, the point of which is that, for every choice you make, there is a consequence. Do you go to a party or stay home and do your homework?

As a reward for participating in the Choices program, each student received a dog tag with the slogan, “I am who I choose to become.”

The point of the program, Hopper reminded the students, is “it is your choice. You each make your own decisions.”



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