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Six heroes your children (and you) can learn from

Think kids grow up to become great on their own? Think again.

GreatSchools Blog

By GreatSchools Staff

When you see a successful person, do you ever think about who helped them become great? Very often, someone who has accomplished great things in life had someone—a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, a friend—who believed in them and helped guide them to greatness.

Here are the stories of six famous Americans and the people around them who expected them to be successful—and who kept reminding them to stick with it and reach for the stars. Share these stories with your own kids as examples of high expectations and the value of hard work.

Michael Phelps

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has won 16 gold medals. But as a child he had a very hard time focusing. He was teased and bullied in school and was diagnosed with ADHD. But Michael's mother, Debbie, a single working mom raising three children, stuck with her son to get him the extra help he needed in school. And when they discovered his talent for swimming, she helped him stay focused, be a good sport—and go for the gold!

Read more about Michael Phelps.

President Barack Obama

"What is best in me, I owe to her," wrote President Barack Obama about his mother, S. Ann Soetoro. When Obama was barely two years old, his single mother returned to college and collected food stamps to help support the family. But she always had high expectations for her son. She used to wake him at 4 a.m. every morning to give him English lessons, always reminding him of the value of hard work.

Read more about President Barack Obama.

Sonia Sotomayor

The first Latina judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor was raised in the housing projects in New York. Her father died when she was nine, and her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to support the family. Sotomayor's mother, Celina, always reminded her children of the value of education and even bought them a set of encyclopedias to encourage their studies. When she was chosen for the Supreme Court, Sotomayor said, "I stand on the shoulders of countless people, yet there is one extraordinary person who is my life's inspiration—that person is my mother."

Read more about Sonia Sotomayor.

Beyoncé

Beyoncé Knowles showed great talent as a young child. Her mother and father, Tina (a costume designer and hair stylist) and Matthew Knowles (a medical equipment salesperson) so believed in her skills that when Beyoncé was just 14, her father quit his job to manage her singing group and create a "boot camp" for the group's training. Quitting his job meant the family lost half its income, but her parents didn't give up. They had the group rehearse in their backyards and in Tina's salon, and Tina designed their costumes. The family's hard work paid off when Beyoncé got a record contract with Columbia Records and became the world-famous singer, songwriter, and actress she is today.

Read more about Beyoncé.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was deaf and blind, but that didn't stop her from learning to read and write, to graduate from college, and to become a world-famous speaker and author. But Keller owed a lot of her success to her tutor, Anne Sullivan, who first helped Keller learn to read by pressing the sign-language letters into Keller's palm. When Keller went to college, Ann Sullivan went with her to every class, spelling out all the lectures and assignments into Keller's hand.

Read more about Helen Keller.

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin is a world famous animal scientist, but she didn't speak a word until she was three and a half years old. Grandin was diagnosed with autism, and her parents were told that she should be put in a mental institution and that she would never have a productive life. They didn't give up on her, though, and found supportive teachers and therapists who helped her get an education. Grandin went on to get her Ph.D. and became an inventor and leader in the humane treatment of animals.

Read more about Dr. Temple Grandin.


 

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/14/2012:
"I must say this is the FIRST article I've read that Barack Obama actually gave his Mother remotely this type of "recognition" for helping prepare him for ANYTHING, let alone to the level this article expresses! I must say I truly have the awesome HOPE this one is true! The others to me personally are a bit more "believeable", and actually inspiring... I have to wonder of Sotameyor would hold the postion she has, were it not for Mr. Obama, as well? I'm simply wondering about the average child who wants and has the need to achieve, and continues the need and desire to achieve and yet these ALL AMERICAN children, for many, many generations are continually denied? What is today's society teaching these little all white faced, light haired, blue eyed children learning. . . and further WHO bestowes SO MUCH ATTENTION to these type children when they actually do "accomplish" their goals but continue to go un-recognized for that? THIS IS AMERICA, we should have "our" culture, it! is truly OUR ONLY HOPE AND OUR MOST VALUABLE AND PRECIOUS ASSET, if we are to sustain our own COUNTRY! I personally can't affort to priviately educate my children, and I happen to be a single working Mother of 3 young children, and yes I get ALL three of my children up shortly after 4:00 am as well, in order to get them to school and myself to work! I am the sole supporter of THREE. . . doing it alone, no child support, without food stamps, or ANY assistance for that matter, so I ask the question again, how well will ALL MY EFFORT work for three little all white, ALL AMERICAN, children who are being raised by a single Mom who gets a bit overwhelmed admitted, from time to time?????? "
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