SUCCESS Foundation: Taking the Lead

 As a high school student in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, Mercedes Sanchez set a challenging personal goal. She wanted to be one of the select few on her school’s drill team. That’s a difficult achievement for any teenager, but it was even tougher for Mercedes, who had been sidelined from her beloved dance for years because of illness. “It was also a harder experience for me because I didn’t look like the other girls. I was overweight.”

One tool she used extensively in striving toward her goal was SUCCESS for Teens. An aunt introduced her to the cornerstone of the program, the book SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge. (The SUCCESS Foundation offers SUCCESS for Teens curriculum free to churches, schools and qualifying youth organizations; a single copy with an audio version on CD is $6 at, or downloads are free.) The book presents eight principles—with stories written by teenagers illustrating each—as building blocks toward accomplishment. One principle is: “Attitude is everything.” Sanchez’s take is: “Your attitude determines what your outcome in life is. That one has always stuck with me.”

Sanchez made a plan (outlined in Chapter 8, “Make Your Dreams Come True”) to earn that coveted drill team spot. She took a dance class taught by the drill team coach and pushed herself during the grueling week of tryouts and practicing new routines. “We actually auditioned [by performing] all the stuff that we had learned throughout the week, and then based on that, you either made the team or you didn’t… or you had a callback.” On Friday of that week in 2008, Sanchez was thrilled to learn she had won a spot. “The process was so nerve-racking.”

Weight loss the following summer was her next challenge, and when her birthday rolled around, she asked for something healthful instead of a cake. “It was just choices that I had to make: Do I want the satisfaction of now, having that cake? Or do I want the satisfaction of later, feeling good about my decision?”

After losing 50 pounds, she realized “you can only eat so much broccoli until you want to give up.” So Sanchez joined a gym. The staff, impressed by her dedication, drafted her to teach Zumba. Next came her certification as a personal trainer. Her eventual weight loss, “a very tough journey,” totaled 70 pounds.

Sanchez applied SUCCESS for Teens ideas to her weight loss, too. “‘Everything starts with small steps’ [another principle in the book] was one that I really didn’t understand when I was younger. But now I think I apply that to everything.”

Sanchez, a junior at the University of North Texas who also works as a dance instructor and personal trainer, still uses the principles from SUCCESS for Teens in her quest for a master’s degree in psychology.

What single lesson has been the key to her success? “You can’t just take a huge leap and expect to land where you want to fall. It’s the grind that gets you there.”


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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