As a part of Teach Across America, Nicole Baker-Fulghum taught 5th grade in crime and gang ridden Compton, California. That experience inspired Nicole to found The Expectations Project, an organization that believes that the academic achievement gap in U.S. public education can be closed in our lifetimes, but only if people of faith open their hearts, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on behalf of students.

A Detroit native, Nicole has written two books: Educating All God’s Children and Schools in Crisis and has appeared on CNN and ABC. Christianity Today named her one of, 50 Women Leaders Influencing the Church and Culture.

Here is what we want you to wrestle with today:

Grit is more than talent, IQ, or any of the other determining factors most individuals associate with success.

Alexander Hamilton’s story personifies grit. Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in 1757 in Nevis, British West Indies. Soon after birth, his mother and father moved with the young Hamilton to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Hamilton’s father abandoned the family shortly thereafter. Because Hamilton’s parents were never legally married, the Church of England denied him membership and education in the church school, and he was educated at home by his mother. When Hamilton was 13, Hamilton’s mother contracted a fever and died, leaving Hamilton an orphan. Hamilton was adopted briefly by a cousin, but the cousin committed suicide, again leaving Hamilton an orphan.

He was adopted as a teenager by a Nevis merchant, and worked as a clerk in a store that traded with New England.

While working as a clerk, he became an avid reader and developed an interest in writing. He wrote an essay published in a local newspaper about a destructive hurricane that impressed and caught the attention of community leaders, who decided to collect a fund to send Hamilton to the North American colonies to further his education. In the North American colonies, Hamilton was attending Kings College in New York (now Columbia University), when the American Revolutionary War began. At the start of the war, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. His abilities and talent were quickly noticed by General George Washington, the American Commander-in-Chief.

Hamilton, a born out of wedlock immigrant orphan, soon became a member of Washington’s inner circle, rising to Washington’s Chief of Staff. As Washington’s closest confidant, Hamilton penned many of General Washington’s messages. After the war, Hamilton was appointed by New York to serve in the Congress of the Confederation. Hamilton was an active participant at the Philadelphia convention for a new constitution and helped achieve ratification by writing 51 of the 85 “Federalist Papers” which supported the new constitution and to this day is the single most important source for U.S. constitutional interpretation.

In the new government under President George Washington, Hamilton was appointed the Secretary of the Treasury, where he organized and founded the new nation’s financial system and established the U.S. Mint. He also established the Cutter Revenue Service (now the U.S. Coast Guard). He later also founded the first American political party (the Federalist party), and founded the Bank of New York.

In 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr took offense to some of Hamilton’s comments, and Burr challenged him to a duel at the same site where Hamilton’s eldest son had died in a duel three years earlier. Burr mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the next day.

The story of the orphan from the West Indies who overcame all odds to shape and inspire a newborn America is told in the record-setting eleven Tony Awards-winning (including Best Musical), 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Broadway musical Hamilton.

Wrestle with these questions:

  • What do you think makes a leader special? Why are they so dogged in their pursuits of achievement? Is it privilege, or is it grit?
  • Some experts think talent originates from one’s natural ability, while others are convinced it originates by being a “striver”. Which of these describes your student(s) best? What parts of leadership are from natural talent or striving?
  • Grit can change as a function of the cultural era in which we grow up, or grit can increase as one ages. Where in your student(s)’s life have you seen grit change? Is it a result of culture or age?
  • What do you think is the relationship between passion and interest?

By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Luke 21:19 ESV

We asked you to read the story of Prudence Crandall (1803-1890), controversial for her education of African American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. In the fall of 1831, she opened a private school, which was boycotted when she admitted a 17-year-old African-American female student in fall 1833. This is widely regarded as the first integrated classroom in the United States. Crandall is Connecticut’s official State Heroine.

Evidence suggests that American states, north and south, attempted to ensure that blacks would not receive the same educational opportunities as whites, not only before the Civil War, but after it. It was not until 1954 that the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that all people must be given equal opportunities for learning. Nevertheless, the gap in education that is the legacy of generations of inferior schooling for blacks has yet to be closed. That is why Nicole Baker Fulghum and The Expectations Project ( can be seen as an extension of the work of great leaders like Prudence Crandall.

In your opinion, how can early childhood education, high standards and expectations, quality teachers and leadership, access to quality schools, trauma-informed schools and racial justice serves as the biggest game-changers for students, parents and communities? Why and how will this take grit?

We asked you to receive your parents’ permission, grab several friends and go the theater and watch the much-anticipated film The Lion King. Disney’s long-awaited film journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. The all-star cast includes Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon, and utilizes pioneering filmmaking techniques to bring treasured characters to life in a whole new way.

Let’s discuss this tension:

Simba’s journey through false narratives about himself to remembering who he really is serves as the foundation of The Lion King story. How does Simba exemplify grit: choosing passion over distraction?

We asked you to read the article Crystal Dunn Might Be The Most Versatile Soccer Player In The World. Versatile and ruthless, Crystal Dunn excels in virtually every position on the field. After lining up as a forward, midfielder and defender during her time at UNC, Dunn crystalized her position as a wing-back with the USWNT in 2018. She continues to appear as an outside midfielder, forward and even an attacking center mid for her current club, the NC Courage.

Let’s discuss this:

In 2015, Dunn wasn’t asked to play any position for the U.S. national side as she was one of Team USA’s last cuts for the Women’s World Cup in Canada, and she took the decision hard at first. However, Dunn talks about her perspective by saying, “The first thing I needed to realize was that missing out on this event, obviously was disappointing, I had to realize that life was going to go on and I’m going to be OK. It didn’t break me. I came out on top. I came out a better player, a better person. You’re going to end up exactly where you need to be but you can’t lose focus or feel like somebody’s opinion is going to be the end all. You just have to make your own opinion about yourself and just continue to work.” How does your own opinion about yourself either fuel or destroy grit? Expound on your answer.

We asked you to read another article about Crystal Dunn titled American Girl. Versatile and ruthless, Crystal Dunn excels in virtually every position on the field. After lining up as a forward, midfielder and defender during her time at UNC, Dunn crystalized her position as a wing-back with the USWNT in 2018. She continues to appear as an outside midfielder, forward and even an attacking center mid for her current club, the NC Courage. 

Let’s discuss this:

Crystal Dunn was the last player cut from the 2015 United States Womens Soccer team that won that year’s World Cup. In this article Crystal says this: “I do it for the girls who want to turn on the TV and see a piece of themselves.” Can you identify a passion in your life like this that keeps you from being distracted? What is that passion?

We asked you to read the article True Grit More About Passion Than Personality, Study Suggests. Instead of thinking talents are fixed, like believing your intelligence is just the way it is, a growth mindset allows you to believe that intelligence, or other character traits and talents, can be grown. In order to do that you must embrace failures and setbacks, because without any of those learning opportunities, you’re not going to get better.

Let’s discuss this:

Danielle Cormier presents this very intriguing statement in this article about grit: “If what you’re doing is moving you towards your life goal, you will likely be bringing some level of grit to it.” Do you think this statement is accurate? Why or why not?

We asked you to watch the TED Talk Help For Kids The Education System Ignores. Define students by what they contribute, not what they lack — especially those with difficult upbringings, says educator Victor Rios. Interweaved with his personal tale of perseverance as an inner-city youth, Rios identifies three straightforward strategies to shift attitudes in education and calls for fellow educators to see “at-risk” students as “at-promise” individuals brimming with resilience, character and grit.

Do you think all young people have the potential and promise to change? How do you think we can best change the way we label young people from “at-risk” to “at-promise?


INFLUNSR’s mission is to fuel the next generation of leaders worth following and to help students learn how to think, not what to think. Any articles posted and questions asked are intended for that sole purpose.

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