“Something I take with me every day is to appreciate life and people for who they are. To trust people and take risks.”
In 2015, Jack Fitzgerald was first invited to the All It Takes Legacy Summit as an eighth grader. One of his teachers, Mrs. Anderson, had encouraged him to become a Safe School Ambassador through a national anti-bullying program and was on the look-out for more opportunities to help her students build their confidence. Jack was happy to participate, if not just to keep his teacher happy.
“Before camp I would kiss up to my teachers, make sure they like me, and hang out in the background. I didn’t really make any connections with anybody, nothing too big, nothing too special. I just went with the flow.”
Later in the semester, Mrs. Anderson invited Jack to join her and her students from another class to attend a leadership camp called All It Takes.
He thought, “Sure, I’ve got nothing else to do, and I get out of school!” He didn’t think too much about it, and he laughs as he reflects, “I didn’t think it was gonna be super crazy or something that I’d end up spending the next 5 years of my life with!”
At first, camp was paralyzing for Jack. It was non-stop action from the moment he arrived, and it required a lot more thought and effort than he was expecting to have to put into it.
“I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t ready for it. I stuck in my click with the people I came with, but slowly, I started to get more comfortable and make new friends.”
Those three days at camp had a profound impact on Jack. He wasn’t particularly thrilled to be attending with a group of kids he didn’t know well, but by the end of the program he had a solid group of friends who he has stayed close with over the last 4 years.
“On the way there (to camp), I looked around and thought about how different I was from everyone around me, but on the bus ride home, it felt like we’d been together for years. We became an instant family.”
During camp, Jack was confronted with situations that forced him to really think about himself and his impact on others. During one of the activities on the first day, his group rambunctiously made an absent-minded decision that turned out to be really scary and uncomfortable for one of their peers. Debriefing that situation with the facilitators, and then apologizing and healing the turmoil encouraged Jack to start to notice how others were feeling, even in a group setting.
One particular and significant activity, Cross the Line, also made Jack think outside of his comfort zone.
“I’ve never been someone who really opens up. I don’t open up to people very easily. It takes a lot to crack the shell. But after Cross The Line, it opened me up, where I could trust and love people around me. They have the same problems that I do, and some of them have it a lot worse. Suddenly I wasn’t the center of the world, and I didn’t have it the worst. I realized I could talk to them about these things I’m going through, and that we could do it together and push through it.”
The bonds he formed at that first camp are strong still today, the impact was lasting.
“Everyone noticed a little bit of a change in all of us. We were a lot more kind, a lot more respectful, and we stood up for ourselves more. We found confidence. I have so many great relationships today because of camp. We learned how to talk to each other. We learned that we could trust each other.”
As an eighth grader, Jack was only able to attend the camp once as a participant, but he was exhilarated to be invited back as a mentor.
“Each year it brought me closer to the people I was around. The kids I’ve mentored are in high school with me now, I’m like a Dad to them at school. They trust me and know they can talk to me about anything.”
Mentoring wasn’t always a cake walk. Jack is afraid of heights, as in “hates roller coasters with a burning passion” afraid of heights. He’d managed to hang out in the back and not participate in the Ropes Course until his third time at camp when his group finally convinced their mentor to try it with them.
During his first camp as a mentor Jack learned a valuable lesson in encouragement and the meaning of mentorship. While the kids in his group were getting ready to climb, he thought teasing the kids in his group (about being afraid) would encourage them to be brave. Then came the ‘ah ha.’ A staff member reminded him of his own fear of heights and that he was there to set an example of how he would like to be treated. In that moment a lightbulb lit up in his head and it was the push he needed to take the risk.
“As a participant, I was learning to come out of my shell. As a mentor, I was learning how to think of others more.”
Every camp, he took another huge step out of his comfort zone and was always grateful for it.
“I don’t have much of a comfort zone anymore. I can be comfortable anywhere.”
Mentoring for All It Takes wasn’t the only new passion he found as he entered high school.
“I was always the kind of kid who would just go with the flow. After the first camp, I thought, “you know what? I’ve got to start getting in my word and making sure good things were getting done around campus. And that inspired me to join ASB the next year in high school.”
Jack’s confidence soared beyond his wildest expectations. He got involved in the community and the school, determined to make as many people experience joy and feel comfortable in their own skin as possible.
“It made me a lot more outgoing, it gave me that push.”
Now, Jack has found his confidence to lead school events, introduce himself to others, and reach out to new and shy students, all together becoming more active in his school community. Jack has been in ASB for all four years of high school. As a senior he’s serving the role of the Community Service Commissioner and hopes to rally All It Takes alumni across his district to come back to camp as mentors. He’s been leading and coordinating community service events all year, including a school-wide blood drive. He’s also taking an EMT course and helps run three on-campus clubs. Every year he has received special recognition in ASB for his projects, including recently organizing a pumpkin carving event for the special education department.
“People will tell me about these cool things they love about me, that I’m doing such a great job, and I’m just thinking about how I learned most of those things at camp. Half the things I do in ASB are because of All It Takes. Doing events where I have to kind of pull apart wallflowers, you know, bring them towards the fun. Without All It Takes, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It taught me the importance of getting in their head, and understanding how they’re feeling about the situation.”
Jack’s commitment to developing and using his leadership skills over the years have landed him several awards and recognitions, including the All It Takes Hooplife Inspiration Award in 2016 after he intervened in a cyber bullying incident and defused the situation. He also participated in the All It Takes aligned Count Me In Summit, a global leadership retreat for high schoolers and college students, which helped hone his skills and expand his network of amazing young people who want to change the world.
“It’s made me a better person. I can do so much more now.” Find out more about the Count Me In Summit here.
Jack is considering a future as a doctor or nurse, wanting to be there for people in the darkest time of their lives.
“I realized I’m a people-person. Making people feel good about themselves, and feel comfortable. That’s my passion. Everyone is special in their own kind of way. I remind people that they’re loved.”
With his natural charisma, his open heart, his abundant skill set and passion for others, whatever Jack decides on for a future career path is sure to be successful. Jack will continue to light the path for many as he embraces his gifts and steps powerfully into adulthood. The AIT team are excited to follow Jack’s extraordinary journey ahead and hope he comes back to mentor as often as possible.