By: Twumasi Duah-Mensah
“Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished.” —James Kofi Annan, founder of Challenging Heights
That’s the philosophy of Operation Wisdom. Young people of the West don’t ever have to “save” some poor developing country (only that country can do that). And they don’t have to. Rather, they should learn about the world and how to create lasting solutions to the global issues we see today. These solutions aren’t major operations or nonprofits like UNICEF and are sometimes quite simple.
But they work. And they teach youths what they truly can do when they put their mind to it. It sounds cliché, but trust me: better than any class or camp or club, OW unlocks students’ full potential and shows them what they can achieve. And this article will show you just that.
Four years after its establishment at Heritage High School and a name change later (an education program in Texas called Project Wisdom threatened legal action unless the nonprofit here changed its name), Operation Wisdom has to grown to become the largest club at HHS and a growing game-changer in the community and world.
For the 2015-16 school year, PW had raised $7,500, including $2,000 to help refugees locally and globally, $2,000 for Wisdom Academy, and $4,000 for partners in Ghana.
For the 2016-17 school year, PW managed to top itself, raising $10,000 in 2016-17, including almost $3,500 for Challenging Heights, a nonprofit that aims to end child trafficking in Ghana.
With new, young blood and a new name, how did Operation Wisdom fare this year? As you’ll find out, it was much less about fundraising and much more about something greater.
This year, OW completed many, many projects, events, and campaigns. But completing them didn’t come without its many adversities.
For example: the Spread the Love campaign in which OW sold hundreds of carnations for Valentine’s Day. Genna Weaver, a senior who has been instrumental to the organization, talked about how the campaign didn’t start as early as desired.
“We wanted to get the carnation from Sam’s Club, but no one had a membership,” said Weaver. Luckily, Weaver’s mom found a great website that sold carnations for a low price (the club learned very early that moms are the greatest, by the way).
For Weaver, it was a great learning experience. “I showed a lot of underclassmen what not to do, and we learned from the mistake of starting late,” she recalls.
A great example: the pep rallies. It was a huge event for a bunch of high school students to make successful. But in the end, this “bunch of high school students” produced some of the best pep rallies the school had ever seen.
“They had a ton of amazing and imaginative ideas that were often too ambitious to be feasible,” said Heritage English teacher and OW advisor Ms. Erin Meyer, “so they had to learn what they could do within the limits of their capability and time.”
Senior Caroline Hobbs recounted a point in time where an event for the fourth period pep rally had to be cut due to time constraints. Check it out on our Instagram for more details (@heritageherald).
Another example: the Multiply Project, in which groups of students were given $10 and were expected to come back in a month explaining how they did or didn’t “multiply” the amount—whether in terms of money or spreading the word of Operation Wisdom.
Rising junior Jake Clifford and his group bought OW stickers and resold them. At first, however, the returns of profit weren’t so great.
“We struggled to find the balance of what people would be willing to pay and what would work best,” remembers Clifford. Eventually, they found out that people were more willing to buy the stickers when sold for an even amount, so the group sold for $2 as opposed to $2.50.
Some of these lessons were simple yet changed the outcome of events that were on the brink of failure. All the hard work paid off, as it led to successful campaigns like the pep rallies, the carnations sale, and the December t-shirt fast that raised $2,000 to stop the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Southeast Asia.
Not only did these events and campaigns lead to lessons that lasted a lifetime, but they also led to memories that lasted a lifetime.
Danyal Ansari, a senior who will be attending UNC Chapel Hill this year, remembers playing ping-pong at the tile painting event. “[I] only did a little bit of actual painting because my painting skills are disgusting,” jokes Ansari.
Ms. Jessie Yates, another club advisor, remembers watching everyone report back for the Multiply Project and the lessons learned from there. Another favorite memory of hers was “watching everyone figure out the first game of Shoulders for the year.”
DISCLAIMER: Shoulders is not as weird as it sounds and is, in fact, the greatest game ever, invented by the great Mr. Miles Macleod (or so he claims).
“When we were planning for the pep rallies… everyone was so excited, and there was so much spirit,” recalls rising senior Aditi Shekar, who will become one of OW’s six student Global Leaders. “We were filming for the opening video for the first period pep rally with the Christmas theme, and I had so much fun being an elf.”
As usual, thank you to the seven OW members and two advisors from taking the time to respond to my questions, including Caitlin Beckett, Joshua Bratager, Grace Mumpasi, and Tyler “T-Roy” Roy. And a huge thank you to all members of Operation Wisdom and its supporters for another amazing year. Here’s to many more. And finally, I thank you, the reader, and leave you with this response from Ms. Meyer. I think it best sums up the spirit of OW.
“My favorite memory isn’t just one time, but it’s anytime that the students in Operation Wisdom have shown leadership and taken over leading the meeting from adults. This happened throughout the year, but it was especially around the time of the pep rally. We had students stepping up, leading meetings and small groups to complete tasks needed in order to prepare for the pep rally. It was awesome to see quieter students blossoming and taking charge for our causes. My other favorite memories are seeing the reactions as students learn how much they raised for each cause, because it was their hard work and dedication that resulted in the causes being funded.”