Photo Credit Lew Kopp
Staying open to new ideas
March 13, 2018

“Be optimistically curious about the world.”

That was the advice Joel Florek ’11 gave the finalists for the Duchossois Family Scholarships at a dinner honoring them on March 3. Thirteen finalists came to Culver for tours and interviews. Five full scholarships are available for 2018.

Each scholarship provides freshman and/or first-year sophomore students with full-tuition, room and board, required fees, uniforms, and books. The scholarship is renewable annually. It also includes a Global Pathways Spring experience in student’s junior year and a summer enrichment experience. Craig Duchossois ’62 and his family have set up the scholarship program for students living in the Midwest.

Along with their interviews, tours, and dinner, the finalists participated in a Character Strengths and Leadership session with Dr. John Yeager, director Culver’s Center for Character Excellence.

Florek, a past Duchossois Family Scholar, said students “need to approach every day, every meeting, every activity, every essay, test, and opponent in a positive fashion.”

He added that using the axiom about a glass being half full actually has mediocre overtones.

Just by sitting in the room with the other Duchossois finalists, he said, each student should know their “glass is so full that the only thing keeping it from spilling over is the water tension that lets it rise beyond the height of the glass’s upper edge.’’

A real estate investor and developer, Florek added that optimism helps everyone try new things and meet new people. It’s the hope that getting on a sailboat for the first time will be fun and open up a new avenue for self-exploration. Optimism is the hope that extending your hand to make an introduction will result in a positive new relationship in your life. Optimism is applying for a scholarship to an unfamiliar school trusting that leaving your friends and family will be worth the risk and sacrifice.”

When a person wants to achieve something, “optimism is what helps you get through the sweat, tears, pain, and roadblocks,” he explained. While at a entrepreneur networking event, everyone agreed that it was their optimism surrounding their idea and vision that helped them get through the hard times. “When everything around you seems to be falling apart, I think optimism is the only thing that can help pick you back up and propel you forward,” he said.

After optimism comes curiosity.

So don’t ever stop being genuinely curious about the world around you.

“Curiosity is what drives us to open ourselves up. When we see a problem, curiosity is the passion and drive that helps us to work to try to understand and come to a solution,” Florek said. It is the fuel for the “chemical reaction” to take place. “Curiosity is at the heart of every explorer, every scientist, and every child as they navigate the nuances of the world.”

Curiosity is what led him to Culver, to apply for the Duchossois Scholarship, and first talk to his fiancé, Florek said. “So don’t ever stop being genuinely curious about the world around you.”

And remember, the world is a very large place.

There is talk of the Culver Bubble, which refers to the trap of thinking that what is happening at Culver is the most important thing in the world. Yet, Culver only occupies a few square miles of the globe, Florek said. While a person’s actions are important inside their bubble, it is important to remember that it can have impact outside that small sphere, too.

Take actions that, if repeated around the world, “would make today a great place for all. Be conscious of your use and abuse of our resources, understanding that many are finite and not all people get the same privilege as you do.

“Challenge whether the way things done around you are best, or if things elsewhere are done better and could be adapted for positive change in your community. Don’t be too proud to use other’s ideas,” he explained. “The idea is to become a global citizen with a massive local impact.”

The Duchossois Family Scholarships are part of approximately 20 full merit scholarships being awarded this year. Each one is valued at more than $200,000. Close to 200 applicants have applied for the merit scholarship programs.

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