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Dominique Dawes: Helping Today’s Youth Realize Their Passion

By Jessica Badger, Manager, Learning and Conferencing, United Way Worldwide

During the afternoon of the United Way Worldwide Out-of-School Time Summit Sponsored by jcpenney, leaders in education and partners from across the country heard from Dominique Dawes, speaker and member of the 1996 Olympic Game's “Magnificent Seven” gold medal women’s gymnastics team.

Since the Games in Atlanta, Dawes has dedicated her life to helping those in need of inspiration and motivation. Today Dawes brought her personal perspective on how important out-of-school time is in keeping America’s youth healthy and driven. Dawes credits the time she spent focusing on athletics with keeping her safe, focused and as the driving force for her academic success. “Out-of-school time is the time in my life when I became the woman I am today. That was the environment where my character was built and my dreams were made,” she said.

As both a former athlete and a spokesperson for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, she has travelled the country meeting youth from every walk of life. Dawes says she understands the struggles facing today’s youth, but knows that each day is an opportunity for them to overcome their challenges and grow as individuals. “Out-of-school time allows kids to find their passion,” said Dawes, “it allows them to expand their experiences and recognize what their gifts are.”

Dawes outlined her eight-step “ENVISION” model for motivating today’s youth and helping them to reach their full potential. Often drawing on her own experiences as a young Olympian and competitive gymnast, her message is simple but incredibly important. “Young people need to know that challenges and hardships don’t define them,” she said. “They make them stronger down the road.” 

Click Here for more information on the 2012 United Way Out-Of-School Time Summit sponsored by jcpenney.

Photo: Stacey Stewart, United Way U.S.A. President & Olympic Gold Medalist, Dominique Dawes