Coaching youth and high school athletic teams over the years has taught me many lessons, but perhaps the most important is to never doubt the aspirations of the players under your tutelage.
Years ago, while coaching a ninth-grade basketball team, I asked the squad members to write down their goals of what they would like to accomplish. Expecting responses relative to the basketball season, I was surprised when one of my players wrote down just one goal; “to be the quarterback of a state championship team.”
At first, I was a wee bit annoyed. This was basketball season, not football, and no football team in the school’s history had ever played for a state championship. Prior to a practice session, I talked with the player about his response, hoping to have him provide some basketball-related reply. Instead, I received his firm conviction that was what he wanted to achieve. Internally, I shrugged it off, never expecting it to become a reality.
Three years later, on a frigidly cold December afternoon, I watched from the warm confines of an Altoona press box as this very youngster led his team to the precipice of that freshman-stated goal. He played an outstanding game that fell just a few yards short of his ultimate achievement. In the postgame locker room, we embraced. I asked him if he remembered that earlier goal. With tears running down both of our cheeks, he told me he did, adding, “I wish I could have done it.”
I’ve never forgotten that moment and the driving resolve the player exhibited in a relentless pursuit of his stated goal.
A few months ago, I was introduced to an organization devoted to a mantra to help other young people ‘reach for the stars’ to help inspire students to take a proactive approach towards building successful futures.
Established in 2018 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the South Williamsport Area School District, Mountie Quest (Quality Experiences for Students) is providing financial assistance to students allowing them to participate in formative experiences outside of the regular classroom setting. The organization’s mission is to help fund shaping, challenging, and educational experiences for students in the South Williamsport school district by enhancing their opportunities to prepare them for the next steps of their life’s journey. Students may apply regardless of their financial background or need.
Since its inception, Mountie Quest has received financial help via a community appeal, local businesses, fraternal organizations, the Junior National Honor Society, Amazon Smiles, and the annual Raise the Region campaign. During the past twelve months, district superintendent Mark Stamm has provided additional funding from COVID relief money to keep students’ interest alive during the virtual school learning programs.
Some of those activities have provided individual students with opportunities to attend various sports-related camps and clinics, vocational camps for automotive restoration and horticulture at Penn College, horseback and swimming lessons, enrollment in an honors math course, attendance at a Mansfield University Sociology course, provided quilting supplies for a student to complete a quilting project and conducted an elementary book drive that delivered 125 books to students to stimulate minds of younger readers.
Retired South Williamsport guidance counselor and Mountie Quest board member Fred Wood explained, “Mountie Quest is here to help any student in our district achieve something special in their lives. Sometimes all a youngster needs is a little boost, or motivation, to point them in a positive direction. All they need to do is submit an application explaining what they are trying to achieve, and we’ll try to help them when we can. In our three years, we have been able to help students achieve some positive results, and those instances have been exciting.”
According to Wood, Mountie Quest has also paid tuition for karate classes to help a student with anger management, purchased business casual clothes for a student to participate in an interview and work, sponsored a student for Lycoming College for Kids because she wanted to learn about bugs, covered the registration cost for a wrestling program to help a student learn teamwork, helped offset part of the cost for seven students that made it to national competitions for FBLA in Texas and FCCLA in California collaborated with the Community Arts Center to provide a family fun night out at the theatre. “If it’s about helping kids in our district, we’re definitely interested!”
Those students helped have certainly been appreciative, as witnessed by a sampling of the comments received.
“Thank you so very much for taking me shopping and for a haircut. I’m going to look pretty sharp for my job shadowing and for any interviews I may get. I hope this helps open doors for me so that I can get a great job and help my mom out financially.”
“With the help of your amazing organization, we were able to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the FBLA National Conference. While this was an amazing cultural experience, we were also able to experience countless other opportunities. We were able to attend business workshops, vote for leaders to impact the future of FBLA, and demonstrate our Pennsylvania pride during the conference.”
Individuals wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to Mountie Quest may do so by emailing MountieQuest@gmail.com or by phoning the SWASD Business Office 570-327-1581 ext. 4467.
Students wishing to submit an application should contact the School Counselor’s Offices or by downloading to apply electronically at Facebook.com/MountieQuest.