The following is the verbatim testimony (speech notes) I shared with the Oregon Senate Education Committee on 11-18-19.
Project OTY - The Story
Mr. Chair… Senators… Thank you for inviting me to testify today and share the Story of Project OTY.
My name is Jeff Otis. I’m the founder of Project OTY. The OTY Stands for developing an “Outstanding and Talented You”
At the core of this project is a unique Personal Leadership curriculum that develops individual leadership skills and personally accountable cultures.
Over my career… I witnessed… thousands of people who struggled to reinvent themselves when life threw them an unexpected or transformative type moments. I’ve watched many go down the path of demonstrating victim behaviors.
I've interviewed thousands of college graduates and adults that do not have a plan for themselves that they’re confident in.
I've had a front row seat watching how powerful the messaging is across the internet and how manipulative it can be.
I've had a front row seat to seeing how big data is being collected and used and the impact it’s having on all of us, including our students.
I’ve been fortunate to experience a combination of Leadership, Personal Development, Self-Awareness and Behavioral type trainings that simply nobody else will ever experience.
And… I’ve enjoyed a career leading thousands of employees & building leaders.
The situation I see today is that… we’re missing the mark in our educational system in terms of teaching the coming generations LIFE SKILLS that they’ll need to succeed in the 21st century.
I don’t see anywhere in our system where we’re consistently teaching the coming generations how to play TODAY’s game of life in a world that’s changed dramatically.
I don’t see anywhere across our educational system that we’re consistently teaching students how to Be the Leader in their life.
And… I believe we’re missing an opportunity to consistently empower students with a process that sets them up to manage life’s Unexpected and Transformative type moments.
When we lack this consistency, we’re left to live in a reactive mode with unpredictable results.
So… I spent the last 15 years developing a curriculum that teaches personal leadership skills and the attributes and behaviors associated with being personally accountable.
The curriculum walks a student through a process and it forces them to pause and think critically about the life they’re building for themselves. It positions a student to be the leader in their life.
In 2005, I started developing and testing this curriculum with 100’s of employees, mostly adult students in their 20’s and recent college graduates.
The curriculum was focused on building leaders and a growth mindset.
It supported ongoing learning and created cultures of personal accountability.
It empowered our staff to be leaders and We Grew Fast.
It was a game-changer!
The number ONE piece of feedback I consistently heard was…
“I wish I LEARNED this stuff in high school?”
The Problem is…
What they were learning… isn’t taught in high schools.
In 2014, I met Dr. Anne Erwin. (the Principal at Beaverton High School)
I helped her refine her vision and communication strategy to enroll her community which we’ve seen her have great success with.
She opened the doors for me to share the curriculum with a THOUSAND students.
And we created a condensed version of the curriculum and squeezed it into one day.
I had two concerns
- One day is not enough…
- We’ll see inconsistencies in how teachers deliver the curriculum.
What I saw is that most teachers did a great job delivering the curriculum…
And… we saw a few teachers that simply ignored it…
Despite this, we ran a survey afterwards and received over 850 positive responses, quotes and testimonials from students.
Students were saying things like:
- “I learned what kind of a person I want to become."
- “It helped me see what I’m good at.”
- "It helped me think about my goals in life and how to achieve them."
- "It helped me realize what I need to do to work at a job I love."
- “It helped me see how to deal with disappointments in life.”
- “It helped me organize my thoughts.”
- “It helped me to see what is possible.”
We also tested a modified version with 400 students at Rosemont Middle School in West Linn. We learned a lot that helped us simplify the curriculum.
We’re currently sharing the curriculum with 25 Teachers and 400 Freshman Students at Beaverton
In a few weeks, we’ll be sharing the curriculum with Teachers at Corvallis High School in preparation for taking their students through it. And… we’re currently in conversations with other schools and districts.
The immediate goal is securing more pilot projects before the end of this school year so we can continue to get feedback and learn best practices for implementation and support before we scale this across a large variety of schools.
I authored 4 books to support the curriculum
The first book (Transform with Confidence) is for parents & adults who want to take a deeper dive into understanding the psychologies and philosophies behind the curriculum and project
I created a workbook (Build YOUR Roadmap) for students that walks them through the curriculum
I created a Spanish version (Construye TU Hoja de Ruta).
And developed a “Leaders Manual” for teachers and leaders.
I’m grateful for the 100’s of people --- Parents, Teachers, Educators, Executives, Community Leaders, Friends, and of course, Students, who’ve helped me pull this all together.
We’ve designed this curriculum to be Plug and Play – Requiring Little Prep Time.
Why Does this Curriculum Work?
The curriculum is 100% Student-Centered.
It leads a student to work on themselves… and think deeply about
- Who They Are…
- Where they Want to Go…
- And… How they’re going to get there.
This curriculum feels Safe for Students because there’s no right or wrong to it – other than to do the exercises.
This curriculum Levels the Playing Field. It doesn’t matter who you are…
It takes you through a process of understanding what your Unique Strengths are.
Developing a Vison that you’re passionate about pursuing.
And… Setting Goals and Steps to accomplish that Vision.
It empowers students with the confidence to Connect and Enroll others in helping their Vision become a reality. In the process… students learn how to Manage their Fears with increased Confidence and Reduce Anxiety in the pursuit of their dreams.
We all benefit when students are empowered and confident to ask for the help they need. Our schools are safer. Our communities are stronger. Students walk away from this curriculum with a Personal Roadmap and a Plan to pursue a vision that they’re passionate about.
All of this is supported with a series of Lessons for Leaders that are designed to reinforce Behaviors associated with being Personally Accountable, which further develops Social and Emotional Learning Skills.
This curriculum allows teachers to connect what they are teaching to a student’s vision of success. And… the foundation is set for building stronger relationships between students and teachers.
This curriculum is designed with all students in mind.
Eric Dazey, a Dean of Students, at Corvallis High School probably said it best.
“This curriculum levels the playing field. It doesn’t matter who you are. This curriculum starts with where you’re at currently and walks you through a process of defining where you want to go.”
This curriculum helps a student define the steps they need to take, and it creates a culture of hope and belief. It builds confidence.
Building this kind of Confidence in our students to go build their future is the most “Equitable Outcome” we can ask for… and it sets them up for the REAL World!
A world that’s transforming daily at a faster pace than ever.
A world full of problems and opportunities that are now visible to all of us.
A world that’s going to require them to be Ongoing Learners every day – just to survive!
Matt Boring, the Principal at Corvallis High School had this to say:
"Project OTY ties together so much of what we are trying to accomplish--to get young people to consider, create, and take responsibility for who they want to be and how they can get there.
Jeff understands what is missing--the EXPLICIT teaching of the skills our students need not merely to survive, but to thrive. This works takes reflection and intentionality… traits that are in short supply.
Project OTY provides the clarity and structure to help students (and adults) go down a meaningful path toward success."
Imagine this… Imagine every student in a high school being empowered to clearly articulate with confidence…
- What their Unique Strengths are...
- What their Vision is - what they want their world to look like in 5 years – the world they’re building for themselves…
- And.. How they define Personal Success.
Most of the college graduates and adults that I’ve interviewed can NOT answer these questions with confidence and clarity.
Imagine if… EVERY high school student could answer these with clarity
They’d have a HUGE head start in Life.
This curriculum inspires a student to Build Their World and empowers Teachers and Leaders to lean in and Help Students with their Next Steps.
THIS is what a Growth Minded…. Culture of Personal Accountability looks like.
Students and Teachers working toward a Common Vision.
All of this leads to greater attendance, engagement and graduation rates.
Dr. Erwin can speak further to how this sets teachers and students up for success.
What I plan to ultimately build has never been done before. We’re going to tie this curriculum with an online experience to help students, teachers and leaders achieve success far beyond what they can currently imagine.
Our plan is to share this curriculum across the country and around the world.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify and share what I’m working on….
Hopefully, I did it correctly.
My hope in sharing this testimony with you is to inspire you to check out the curriculum. Go through the exercises and experience what a student would experience.
I invite you to consider this curriculum for Universal Adoption across high schools in Oregon and help us quickly learn what we need to learn to make this a reality.
Mr Chair… Senators…
Thank you for your time today!
I’m happy to answer any questions….
Interested in learning more?
Read: "Transform with Confidence" - a deeper dive into the psychologies and philosophies behind the curriculum.
Review: "Build YOUR Roadmap - Create YOUR World" the curriculum for students and adults of all ages.
Review: "Construye TU Hoja de Ruta" - the Spanish version.
Let us know what you think.