Inspiring Our Youth

Guest Correspondence

Greatness Beyond Measure.

What an incredibly powerful phrase. But what is it and what does it mean for our entire community? More than you can possibly imagine. It’s just that—“beyond measure.”

Affectionately referred to as “GBM,” this important initiative was launched by Executive Producer Melanie Thomas in 2008. I recall the day Melanie approached me about hosting this Greatness Beyond Measure event on our campus. Because the program is focused on young people being able to dream about their future and recognizing they could be whatever they wanted to be, I felt Ringling College was the perfect place to host such a program. GBM participants, who are primarily from this area, learn a variety of things throughout the experience—including leadership development, career exploration, networking opportunities and an exploration of their future opportunities. Little did I know that this one year when I gave Melanie permission to host on campus would turn into what is now the organization’s 10th Anniversary.

So, let me back up and explain about this important teen summit held right here in Sarasota. A three-day offering filled with opportunities for young people to share and expand their creative gifts and aspirations as musicians, dancers, poets, artists and entrepreneurs, techies, etc., GBM has developed a powerhouse mentoring and networking community to help guide the young participants through to a professional career in whatever field they choose.

As Ms. Thomas explained to me, it’s all about empowering these young people for life. This is their mission. They believe deeply in “igniting the genius within,” and in inspiring youth to both believe and achieve. So powerful, because when you think about it, that is exactly what education—especially higher education—is all about.

So what is it specifically that GBM does? GBM hosts and broadcasts eight annual events. This weekend includes three-days of offerings, including an American Idol-style showcase, a Stomp the Violence poster contest and dance competition, a FunTech Experience giving participants the opportunity to explore technology including Virtual Reality, Google Paintbrush and Lego Robotics, and of course the Anniversary Celebration of Greatness. Thomas and her colleagues were able to get Microsoft on board as a sponsor this year, and I’m so pleased our Ringling College faculty are also playing a part to help facilitate this experience. Perfect timing with the launch of our new major in Virtual Reality Development this fall. You just never know what will strike a chord with these young people and what could possibly change their life forever.

In addition to our Sarasota-Manatee teens, including many participants from our neighboring Newtown community, teens are coming to Sarasota from many places, including, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami, to name a few. We at Ringling College are so happy to host and contribute to what we hope will be an inspiring and transformative experience for each of these and their families.

Fostering the creative leaders of tomorrow is what Ringling College does day in and day out on our campus, so aligning with GBM’s goal of “igniting the genius that resides within” seems the perfect pairing.

This community needs to give a big thank you to Greatness Beyond Measure, showcasing Sarasota’s and Ringling College’s commitment to inspiring our youth. The future is surely bright.

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design.

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