By Robert Litz
Teaching is learning. Learning is living.
Four and a half years ago, as I carted the belongings I had into my dorm-to-be nestled on the ground floor of Allegheny College’s Baldwin Hall, I was your typical giddy college freshman — naive but jumping out of my shoes to take on the world. Today, I owe it to my Allegheny education for fueling my growth and preparing me to tackle the trials and challenges of the real world that lie ahead.
Like most of my fellow first-year Alleghenians, I was diving headfirst off a pier into the vast ocean of my college career without a clue where I wanted to go with my life — searching for some sense of meaning and purpose. Now, after exploring the depths of my liberal arts education as a political science major and writing minor, I surfaced from the waters, clutching the pearl which has given my wandering soul direction. The jewel I found that represents my obtainment of meaning and purpose lay within a small company’s shell — The American Scholar Group (ASG). This gem is more than just a job; it is something to fuel my passions and dedicate my being to. However, the day before I made this discovery, I could not have told you that I would find it the very next day.
One evening I was talking with a good friend of mine, explaining my desire to teach English in South Korea. My fascination with Korean traditions, love of teaching and curiosity about foreign culture drew me to pursue international education. My friend must have sensed a spark of drive within me, and so, during our conversation he shot back that his father owns an organization — The American Scholar Group — whose mission is up my alley of interest. By the end of our discussion, he wanted me to come aboard with ASG. Before long, I had been through a series of interviews and found myself squarely inside its headquarters located in Greenville. According ASG Chief Executive Officer and Chairman David Ho, the company is a one-of-a-kind organization.
“American Scholar is the United States’ front-runner in educational consulting, which offers specialized, full-service assistance to international students and their families who are seeking schooling in American K-12 programs, as well as placement into colleges and universities in the U.S,” he explained.
However, it was not simple blind luck that opened the door to this opportunity for me. My years of learning experiences at Allegheny endowed me with a wealth of sharpened skills, knowledge and wisdom which I carry with me and apply to every facet of life each day. Without these qualities and my finely-tuned passion, I may have still found myself lost, swimming about the seas searching for a sense of purpose and direction. Even though I have been an employee for only a few weeks, I have learned how crucial communication, analytical and problem-solving skills are to maintaining a highly functional workplace. Thankfully, Allegheny equipped me with these traits so that I may contribute to ASG’s growth.
My final semester at Allegheny, I participated in a course which works alongside the Crawford County READ program where I assisted a Meadville resident, named Jeff, through tutoring. Though I improved my teaching skills, most importantly, I learned how to listen. Lending an ear, offering advice and ultimately improving Jeff’s quality of life left me with the greatest feeling. My ASG co-worker Megan Brundage, who is pursuing a master’s degree in education at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, has likewise learned from her experiences in school.
“My education classes provided me a framework for planning, organizing and preparing to work with teens. My previous jobs have allowed me to gain much-needed teaching experience that has helped me with my work for ASG.”
While the mind is essential to operating a company, so is the heart in equal parts. Like one of America’s greatest leaders, Martin Luther King Jr., whose life we celebrate this week, I have learned that constantly striving to help others will carry one to heights unattainable through sheer intellect. My observations and experiences have led me to believe that the most successful companies are ones that mirror a family structure; a circle of closely-knit human beings who have their differences, but at the end of the day place the needs of others above their own, and are bound by love, respect and kindness. At times, thinking will lead you in the right direction, but you must look inside of your heart to find the answer.
Know your passion. Follow it into the darkness of uncertainty, through the unknown, and the light of purpose will find you as it found me. My boss, Bob Stanger, a former Keystone High School teacher of 14 years, captured what I believe to be the essence of education: “Teaching is a learning experience. I learn as much as I do from the students as they do from me.”
Robert Litz is a soon-to-be graduate of Allegheny College.