On September 22nd, at 1:00pm, Friendship Fitness is proud to host Jeff Binek & Meredith Graham as speakers on the topic of the post-high school decision process. This blog post will discuss why we’re running this seminar and what you or your student can expect to gain from it. The sign-up link is here if you are interested in attending, for any questions please feel free to email [email protected]

Written by Jeff Binek, Owner, Friendship Fitness & Nutrition

Be Prepared for the Fork in the Road: College, Work, Service

Starting Friendship Fitness and being an entrepreneur has been the greatest gift that life has ever given me. I’ve had the pleasure of making some of my greatest friendships, meeting my wife, introducing thousands of people who have also met their significant others, made lifelong friendships all while helping our community attain a higher level of fitness and understanding of self-care & functional medicine. But, my journey was a long, weird, winding road prior to this. One filled with a lot of doubt, uncertainty, scary decisions and a lack of good information to follow. I want to help the thousands of other kids and parents in that position make those scary decisions with more confidence, have great information to follow and believe in themselves and the decisions they’re making. This seminar will cover everything from College Choice, to Gap Years, Military Service, Entrepreneurship & Trade schools.

“Friendship” really started in High School, when Grant (co-founder) and I had all of our classes together. We were both great students, but unchallenged by the class structure of our school and without any real options for freedom in learning. We both quickly became apathetic towards the education we were getting. One of our teachers noted to us that we “Had the worst case of senioritis I’ve ever seen in 20 years of teaching”….it was the fall of our Sophomore year. There’s your first red flag.

Now, my parents look back on that story and smile, laugh and say “deep down I knew you two would always be entrepreneurs.” And to date, between Grant and myself we’ve started 5 successful businesses, with more to come. But between that story and the businesses success there were also many tough decisions and failures for me. Things like deciding to go to a college I had no passion for, failing out of that college, bouncing between jobs, signing up for the military during the height of the insurgency on a whim, breaking both hands during training and losing my Special Forces contracted position.

The adversity of all of that was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

Often, it is so challenging for parents to watch their kids go through struggles. My mom has the BIGGEST heart in the world, and I cannot imagine what she was going through as I called depressed, lonely, scared and struggling through each of these phases. But my parents FAITH in me grew over the years, and was integral in helping me make the decisions that followed. Without their support, I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me.

I was able to go to Washington D.C., work in the White House and Capitol, be a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and receive the rarest badge in the U.S. Military, get out of the Army, start my first company (Friendship) while finishing my bachelor’s degree at Ohio State with Honors, get into Law School, meet the most amazing woman ever and create full-time American Jobs. All things me and my family are very proud of.

In the last few years, I have had multiple conversations with parents and kids in our community about navigating this path. On top of that, I have the incredible privilege of speaking multiple times a year at schools, talking with teachers, sports teams, administrators and students alike to gain a unique perspective on the words we’re using to guide our youth today. I’ve recognized that there is a gap in voices that are a guiding light for students AND parents who are struggling with the ‘college thing’. It is a perspective that is often shunned, and my aim is to share a set of principles, values and common language so that we can have these important discussions.

Families can be severely damaged through nothing more than fear and a lack of understanding on the part of parents facing kids in these decisions, but they do not need to be. The parents are scared, as I’m sure my parents were at one time. The statement “I don’t want to go back to school next semester” is a really challenging one to bring to your parents, especially if it has never been discussed before and you’re in a community like Dublin, Worthington or Olentangy schools. The default in our society is to view this as a failure, rather than an opportunity…which is such a shame.

The expectations in our society, and in our high schools, are that you graduate, move on to a good university, graduate and get a job. I call this the “paint by the numbers” approach. It’s easy, just like high school the curriculum for a Bachelor’s at Ohio State is laid out to you neatly on a website. Take these classes, stay in this hall, eat here and graduate in 4-5 years. It’s convenient and comfortable, and the structure and organization of it does work for many Americans. But I also know hundreds of people who that system has failed and/or have found so much success outside of that system that we cannot be short-sighted by only discussing one approach.

Many kids CRAVE a blank canvas. They have thoughts and ideas, passions and excitements, beliefs and convictions that fall beautifully outside of what a paint by the numbers approach will give them. Give these kids the right tools, a set of values to follow and watch what they’re able to create on that canvas. Not only will it be something amazing, but they will have so much pride in it because they created that path for themselves. For people like this, the structure of a traditional university (and even HS) setting is suffocating. They will be so much closer to happiness than they would be had they suffered through the paint by the numbers approach that just wasn’t right for them. 

My discussion during the seminar will be dedicated to what kids and parents can be focused on if they decide that school isn’t right for them at this time in their life. Developing a deeper understanding of alternative paths to school, while adopting a self-education approach in major life areas like: Financial Independence, Mental Health, Nutrition, Stress Management, Exercise and Travel/Worldly Knowledge. Parents and students who attend will have a common ground to have this discussion later in life, or right now and hopefully will have less fear entering these decisions.

What if College is right though?!

Meredith Graham is absolutely THE expert you need to listen to. She will be dedicating the latter half of the seminar to all things college. She will discuss what industries are good choices to enter and which ones aren’t. Understanding debt, financing and opportunities that almost NO ONE knows about or takes advantage of. How families can select the right school to set the students up for the most success. Whether a ‘gap year’ might be right for you. Is trade school an option? Basically, she is a coach/guru for navigating the college choice.

Meredith says “I knew College was right for me since I was 12-years old, I was so excited to go and knew I would be successful there the whole time”. She has dedicated her life to helping counsel students and families in this field. She is passionate, fun, corky and has been an amazing part of the Friendship community for over 3 years! She now works as the Director of Collegewise here in Columbus.

From Meredith:

Collegewise is a private college counseling company that embraces two beliefs: (1) The college admissions process should be an exciting, adventurous time for every family, and (2) accurate, helpful college information should be made available to everyone. So, even though we are private counselors who work with families who can afford to hire us, we also enjoy working with anyone who is interested and willing to listen, whether we’re writing, speaking, or teaching as much as we can.

Meredith Graham is the Director of the Collegewise office in Columbus, Ohio. Before joining Collegewise, Meredith spent seven years as an associate director of admissions at Cornell University where, on the dare of a colleague, she once worked the phrase “Dolly Parton” into a seven-minute presentation about Cornell. She also earned a master’s degree in higher education and worked as an academic advisor at Purdue, all after studying chemistry at The College of Wooster. A true renaissance woman, Meredith has also learned how to clog (the folk dance, not the backing-up-a-sink kind of clog), fly a glider, knit, shoot sporting clays, and rock climb. She is a part of the Friendship Fitness community and can most often be found at the 6:30 a.m. class.”