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Developing potential fits into many aspects of life

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It seems the only time I have for reading celebrity news magazines is when I’m at the hairdresser’s.

While there recently I picked up the June 21 issue of People magazine. The article "Mr. King’s Class Goes to College," with its bold-print caption, caught my eye: "In 2006 only a few freshman at Tim King’s Chicago school read at grade level. Now all are off to four-year universities."

In 2006, King founded Urban Prep Charter Academy, the first public all-male high school in the nation, in one of Chicago’s most violence-ridden neighborhoods.

Of the incoming freshman, only 4 percent could read at grade level. Just four years later, 100 percent of the seniors, all African-American, received their high school diplomas, and all 110 had been accepted to four-year colleges.

I was thrilled to think of these young men, who against great odds realized their potential of graduating from high school, now going on to college.

The dictionary defines "potential" as the inherent capacity for growth, development or coming into being.

Just how did these students develop their inherent capacity for growth? And who could have known that capacity was inside them?

There are many factors involved, but here are four P’s that I can see were at work:

» Passion. These students and their parents (many of whom were single mothers) had a passion to rise from their impoverished surroundings. And founder King had a passion to provide free quality education.

» Plan. Urban Prep’s plan was to provide a rigorous education with an eight-hour school day. Despite this, Urban Prep was a school to which kids wanted to go.

» People. People who believed in, supported and held students accountable. Each student was assigned a college counselor from the first day, and teachers were available to talk by cell phone.

» Persistence. To get to school, students had to pass through dangerous neighborhoods with gangs, drugs and crime. Over four years they spent 1,166 more hours in school than children at other city schools.

King’s mission is to not only see that his students are accepted to college, but that they graduate.

Helping students develop their potential is happening locally, too. Campbell High School in Ewa Beach is now one of Hawaii’s highest-achieving high schools. Suffering from gangs and low morale 10 years ago, 97.9 percent of seniors graduated last year with diplomas. Of the 2010 graduates, 56 percent enrolled in college, having earned $12.9 million in scholarships.

Developing potential applies not only to academics, but also to any life area, including career, finances, athletics, health and fitness.

Even our personal appearance and homes have unrealized potential, as seen in before and after makeovers.

Unrealized potential doesn’t apply only to those who are disadvantaged. Sometimes it occurs in well-to-do families where members have had too easy a life.

According to psychologist William James, "We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. … The human individual thus lives far within his limits."

How about you? In what areas are you not operating at full potential?

Pick one latent area and apply the four P’s. Developing your potential can be exhilarating and beyond satisfying.

It will be time well spent.

Ruth Wong owns Organization Plus. Contact her by e-mail at


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