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My passion is Resilience

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My passion is Resilience

By: Donna Volpitta, Ed.D – Educational Director at One Revolution

“It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you,” is a mantra that my kids are certainly sick of, but someday, I hope that it will serve them well. I know that it is what sometimes gets me through the day.

The funny thing about resilience is that it is universal—we all experience challenges throughout our lives. How we handle those challenges is our resilience. For some, a slight bump in the road can seem tragic, and for others huge roadblocks don’t seem to slow them down. There is another part of resilience though, the part that is what intrigues me most: the relationship between resilience and integrity.

Take the Sandusky incident. The challenge for the university officials was whether to report the incident, as required by law. I consider resilience to be how they handled that challenge—choices that they made. They made the choice to take the easy road, the one that made them feel the least uncomfortable. Ironically, they called it “the more humane” course of action. The easy road is often not the one that builds integrity, but as humans, we are often all to good at justifying our actions to make us feel better.

How can we teach resilience in a way that builds integrity? How do we teach our children to make decisions that are difficult, but that in the long run are more honorable? I believe that we can.

Three years ago, a friend of mine from college, Chris Waddell, called and asked if I would help him write and educational program for One Revolution, his non-profit foundation. Chris had been paralyzed when we were in college and went on to become the most decorated male paralymic skier in the world. We both agreed that the program was not going to be about disability, but rather the universal experience of challenge. The program that we designed, Nametags, works for kids because it does just that—it is a template that can be given by anyone who has faced challenge, and every child can relate his or her own challenges to the message, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.” The program, which Chris has now presented to close to 150,000 students, is powerful.

But it takes more than just a program. Each day I see news about bullying because it is such a hot topic. Almost anything about bullying seems to sell. But when we are focusing in on bullying, I feel like we are missing the point. Kids become bullies and get bullied because they don’t know how to act any other way. Kids stay quiet because it is the easy road. If top officials at a university were not willing to rock the boat, how can we expect children to?

Ten years ago, I embarked on the greatest journey of my life, parenthood. My husband and I laughed that I would have guinea pigs for my theories of teaching resilience. My friends laugh now that I have four kids to give myself more opportunity to test the theories. Parenting is hard. Incredibly hard. We can work very hard and never be certain that we have done what is right. But no matter what my children decide to become, my greatest hope is that they will learn to handle challenge with resilience and integrity. Therein lies my passion.

Donna Volpitta, Ed.D. is a resilience educator and co-author of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting. To learn more or contact her, go to

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