As a high school freshman, Sarah Buffaloboy was a respectful teen and a decent student, but she struggled with anxiety and lacked motivation. With just $20 and a new book, the Collingswood, New Jersey, resident transformed herself into a shining student leader. The journey led her to the front steps of the White House.
“This book has inspired me, and has opened me up from my closed-in shell. I am so thankful,” says Sarah, now 18, about SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge, the book at the core of SUCCESS for Teens, a personal-development curriculum supported and promoted by the SUCCESS Foundation.
It all started about four years ago, when Sarah’s parents, Fabian and Danielle Brown, attended a convention where leadership expert John C. Maxwell was the keynote speaker. During his talk, the SUCCESS Ambassador noted that he never gave his children an allowance to do household chores, but he instead paid them to read books.
“My husband and I thought that was exactly how we wanted to run our house since we have such a large family, and we want them all to be successful,” Danielle says.
Fabian, a longtime SUCCESS subscriber, had read about SUCCESS for Teens in this column, so he decided to try Maxwell’s tactic with some of the couple’s 10 children and requested a few copies of the book. (The SUCCESS Foundation donates hard copies of the book to qualifying public schools, churches and nonprofit youth-development programs; SUCCESSFoundation.org offers free downloads of the book and facilitator’s guide to everyone.)
“Sarah was the one who really took it on!” Fabian says, who paid her $20 to read the book. “She had almost 10 pages of notes after the first time she read it. When she made the decision to read it a second, third and fourth time, I knew great things were bound to happen.”
And happen they did. According to Danielle, Sarah achieved and maintained a 4.0 GPA; started taking advanced classes; became a triathlete, captain of the tennis team and star of the lacrosse team; took part in the student council and in the women’s activist club; was inducted into the National Honors Society and the French Honors Society; volunteered at a local assisted living facility; and raised nearly $12,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“She was so excited and motivated,” Danielle says. “It was like a new kid had taken over our daughter!”
Sarah says she was initially skeptical about SUCCESS for Teens. She’d read other personal-development books for students and found she couldn’t connect with them.
“When I started to read SUCCESS for Teens, I found this connection because I could personally relate to the different points of view of the teenagers throughout the book,” she says. “These connections drew out solid steps on how to achieve success. For the first time, I could now picture myself taking those steps and have them play in the back of my head when approaching a new situation.”
Sarah—who admits she used to be so cripplingly shy that “asking for a packet of ketchup at a restaurant would crowd [her] mind with negative thoughts”—says she especially internalized the message that small steps can make a big difference in life: “I looked at every new situation with a positive attitude and took those needed small steps to accomplish my overall big step to achieve what I was after.”
Last year Sarah set her sights on a trip to Washington, D.C., as part of the 2015 American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation. Out of 400 New Jersey applicants, only two high school juniors would be chosen to participate.
Sarah kept her SUCCESS for Teens strategies in mind as she participated in debates, delivered numerous speeches and won enough supporters to secure a “senate” seat. Last July she spent a week in the capital, visiting Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the White House.
“The highlight of the whole experience was personally meeting and speaking with President Barack Obama,” she says.
Sarah credits SUCCESS for Teens for her transformational journey, and she and her parents recommend the book as a “must-read for every teenager.”
Now, with graduation just weeks away, Sarah continues to lean on the fundamental message of SUCCESS for Teens. She says: “A person can accomplish anything they put their mind to, no matter the past failures. No dream is too big.”
Related: 10 Steps to Achieve Any Goal
To request books, learn about the program, share your story about it or make a contribution, visit SUCCESSFoundation.org. Leaders, participants and donors can request a profile in SUCCESS by emailing [email protected]
This article appears in the April 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.