top of page

Making Progress

One Step at a Time

Karen and Jay share thoughts on the excitement of ‘Making Progress.'

Success has been defined as the ‘progressive realization of a worthy ideal.’ And one of the interesting things about achieving success is that despite what some may think, it rarely happens ‘overnight.’ Success is truly a process. One that requires setting a goal, then mustering up the belief or faith that it can be achieved, and then, taking the persistent action, day by day, step by step, to move forward making progress.

Consider the story of Cole Thomas. A few years ago, Cole was on his way to a job-site outside of Chicago when a deer ran out in front of his truck. Cole swerved to avoid it, but when he did, his truck ended up going down into a ditch and then back up onto the road, rolling over three times before it came to a stop. When he came to and tried to get out of the car, his legs wouldn’t move. He realized then his life had truly changed forever.

A good Samaritan came to his aid and helped him out of his truck. He was flown to a hospital in Chicago where doctors shared that he’d shattered his vertebrae and that sadly, he would never walk again. But in his own words, Cole was determined to dance with his wife and wanted to one day walk his daughters down the aisle for their weddings.

Only a few days after the accident, he began physical therapy. When asked by his therapists that his goal was to one day walk again, they attempted to manage Cole’s expectations for the future. Yet he was determined and his therapists, knowing anything is possible, started him on a program that focused doing specific tasks, like getting out of bed without any help. Yet after a month, during a touch test, Cole still couldn’t feel a thing. He began to feel like there was no hope, and that perhaps the doctors were right. Yet a few days later, he closed his eyes, and said a little prayer to himself over and over again. When he opened his eyes and looked down at his toes, he could see the slightest of movements. It was all the motivation he needed.

Over the course of the next few months, he would continue making small amounts of progress. From the big toe on his left leg, to the big toe on his right leg, every little movement was a sign that he could overcome this traumatic injury. As his therapist said, “every single week, Cole would reach a new milestone. Every Friday, he would do something new.” Only 4 months after his accident, Cole was with his family on New Year’s Eve when he made the biggest progress yet: he stood up on his own for the first time. And then, only 3 months later, he would graduate from therapy by walking out of his therapists under his own power.

Today, Cole is a physical therapist, using his experience to help inspire and motivate others in their therapy journey. His story is nothing less than a miracle, but even more, is an inspiring testimony to the power of believing in our own progress, even when it feels incremental or unsubstantial. As Cole’s story shows us, when we make even the smallest steps forward, it’s important to remember one thing: we’re still moving forward. Over time, you’ll begin to realize that what may have felt like only small changes suddenly become dramatic ones. We see this with children as they learn and grow, graduating from elementary school, to middle school, all the way through to college. We’ve also seen this with the Sunshine Initiative, as our communities have taken small steps in a positive direction, they are now beginning to flourish, day by day. We saw it with Cole, once paralyzed and now walking and using his story to help others. Our progress, no matter how big or small is under our control – within our power! We achieve positive outcomes in direct proportion to our belief and our persistence. So, I urge you to hold fast in your belief and ‘keep taking one more step forward,’ very much in the same manner as Cole – and inspiring and motivating role model for us both to admire and emulate.

Learn Everywhere – A New Hampshire Model for Success

"Everyone agrees that learning for credit can happen anytime/anyplace. Learn Everywhere just re-states what's already been in state regulations since 2005." ….Fred Bramante, President National Center for Competency-Based Learning

This innovative program – ‘Learn Everywhere’ was passed into NH law in 2018, and allows students to earn high school credit for learning that happens in their communities – in other words, outside the classroom. Under the policy, prospective course providers—such as non-profits, museums, and colleges—apply to the State Board of Education for approval. Applications are evaluated based on several factors including provider qualifications, expected outcomes, and student assessment plans. The first program was approved in December 2020, and students can now get academic credit for learning about a wide variety of topics such as Marine Biology at the East Coast Science Center, participating in FIRST Robotics, taking music lessons at the North Main Music Center, and many others.

Frank Edelblut is NH's very innovative Education Commissioner. He says that kids are inherently curious learning machines and that we have to try not to squash their curiosity but instead find ways to nurture and encourage their curiosity as much as we can. Learning is not limited to the hours from 7:30 to 2:30 as kids learn all over the place, all the time.

The idea for Learn Everywhere came from his visit to a NH high school. Frank walked in at 8:30 one night and there were about 25 kids very engaged in a FIRST Robotics program. Some of them were programming in Java, getting their robot to navigate various obstacles they had created while others were working closely with Bosch engineers.

A young lady came up to him and said, “Mister, you’ve got to help us. The school closes at 10:00, and we need to stay open until 11:00.” And so, his first thought was, ‘Ding, I win the prize - these kids are begging me to keep school open. But the second thought I had was, these poor kids are going to go home, and they’ve got to do two hours’ worth of homework because all of this learning they’ve been doing for the last five hours doesn’t count for academic credit.” Thus, the inspiration for the program.

When a Learn Everywhere provider submits an application to the State Board of Education, they are asked to describe how they’re going to determine that the kids have mastered the competencies. And it’s really interesting, because it actually creates an opportunity for innovation in assessment as well.

When it comes to costs, the State Board is quite intent on making sure that these programs are affordable - asking providers how they are going to meet the needs of all the kids. For instance, the Boys and Girls Club has a great theater arts program that doesn’t cost anything to participate. The Friends Forever International has a free leadership program that specifically targets kids who are at high risk for dropout. When there are financial barriers, they try to talk to the programs about how to make them more accessible. The providers are asked how they are going to make sure finances don’t ever become a reason for a kid not to be able to engage.

“Learn Everywhere presents the incredible opportunity and incentive for students to engage in meaningful community-based learning and to develop these skills most necessary for success beyond the classroom.” Allison Joseph, Executive Director, My Turn Incorporated.

Claremont Municipal Airport – Progress!

“How a project going” is sometimes the hardest question to answer because progress can be difficult to measure. All projects, from concept to completion, take time and effort usually from multiple entities. However, when the end of a project finally comes, it is a time to celebrate.

This month, the city of Claremont did just that.

Almost 100 years ago, the Claremont Municipal Airport became the second airport to open in New Hampshire. Travel for commerce by air was becoming a reality, and the Claremont Chamber of Commerce in 1927 saw it as an opportunity to bring Claremont to the national scene for economic success. It was a time when Aeronautics had captured the fascination of the nation, and even Charles Lindbergh was scheduled to make a stop during his New England tour at the Claremont Airport to help in the opening of the airport (however, ultimately did not due an already tight schedule.)

As you might imagine, a lot of wear and tear had happened to the airport in the last 95 years, and it was in desperate need of repair and upgrading. So, an effort was initiated – with ‘all hands on deck,’ the city worked with the: Federal Aviation Administration, NH Bureau of Aeronautics, Department of Environmental Services, Economic Development Department, Airport Advisory Board, Congressional delegation, and the NH Executive Council to receive funding for the revitalization of the airport.

Funding was successfully achieved and directed towards a variety of different projects: rehabilitating marker signs, constructing drainage improvements to Runway 11-29, obstruction removal, maintenance, easement acquisition, and a new terminal building!

Then, the celebration - elected officials, town members, and developers were present to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new airport terminal building. And while Charles Lindbergh was not there in person for the celebration of this new economic development for Claremont, he was certainly there in spirit.

Positive Profile of the Week: Jack Potvin – Project Happy

This week we are delighted to highlight an inspirational young entrepreneur and leader – Jack Potvin.

If you don’t know Jack, we guarantee that you soon will. He is the founder and leader of an exciting new initiative called Project Happy.

Project Happy is a non-profit tech startup on a mission to reconnect young people to their community and help them lead happier, more connected lives. It is an app-based program allowing young people to easily and seamlessly, sign up to volunteer at a wide variety of nonprofits in their community. The app provides options, tracks progress, and makes the entire process not only rewarding – but fun. It’s inspiring.

It’s really a marvelous concept and is in the process of gaining wide adoption across the Granite State. Project Happy is working closely with the Department of Education and is already being introduced into high schools throughout New Hampshire including for example, Portsmouth High School, Spaulding High School in Rochester, and Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

And, while Project Happy is on its way to ‘rock New Hampshire’ in a positive way, Jack’s interests and activities go way beyond this specific initiative.

A recent graduate of UNH, Jack was already working at a startup while still a student when I first met him several years ago. He was a key member of the team at a company called Shtudy, while also a full-time student – and of course, while also developing and launching Project Happy. Having graduated earlier this year, he is now deeply involved – working ‘full time’ at yet another startup, called SportsVisio – a truly innovative New Hampshire based company.

I could go on and on about this young man’s achievements and interests – but the truth is that his positivity, energy, and spirit are even more impressive than his achievements. Not surprisingly, we at the Sunshine Initiative consider ourselves to be so very fortunate to be partnering and working with Jack on multiple projects. His vision and infectious personality will undoubtedly make a positive impact on our state and go far beyond.

Thank you, Jack Potvin!

Quotes of the Week: Making Progress

“Optimism is essential to achievement, and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress.”

Nicholas M. Butler

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Benjamin Franklin

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

Ronald Reagan

“Nature knows no pause in progress and development and attaches her curse on all inaction.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


bottom of page