They called him names like “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November.” Throughout an 18-year career with the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter had a legendary ability to persevere in high-pressure situations.
The trait apparently runs in the family. Jeter’s younger sister, Sharlee, shutout Hodgkin’s lymphoma while simultaneously balancing coursework as a college student in 2001. Her poise in facing this life-threatening battle inspired even the clutch-hitting shortstop. Now cancer-free, Sharlee is speaking out for the first time about her struggle and sharing the stories of others who managed to flourish in the face of extraordinary challenges in a new book called The Stuff.
Co-written with her friend Dr. Sampson Davis, a physician who’s seen it all while treating thousands of patients in the emergency room, the book profiles men and women who have what they call “the stuff” – an ability to surmount daunting obstacles and then thrive from the experience. In The Stuff, Davis and Jeter highlight 11 core elements that allow individuals not only to survive, but to flourish in the face of extraordinarily challenging circumstances. It’s an investigation in courage and resiliency, and shines a bright light on an ethos that surrounds her each day as president of the Turn 2 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyle choices among youth.
“In the course of my life and work with the Turn 2 Foundation, I have encountered remarkable people whose ability to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances has inspired me,” she said. “We wrote The Stuff as a way to share their incredible stories, document our search for more real-life superheroes, and uncover the special qualities that drive individuals to do extraordinary things. My hope is to empower young people to dig deep and believe they can achieve anything.”
Launched in 1996, Derek’s rookie year, Turn 2 supports programs and activities that steer young people away from drugs and alcohol and toward positive behaviors. It’s a mission that lines up well with STOPit’s emphasis as a tool that empowers kids to take a stand against bullying and abusive behaviors so they can help create safer school communities. Sharlee serves as a member of STOPit’s Board of Directors.
“Derek and I talk to about this a lot; kids these days deal with a lot of pressures,” she said. “When we were growing up, you would race home and hope the bullies didn’t catch you, or maybe you didn’t want to go to school the next day to face them. But now the bullies can follow you right into your home through your phone and social media.”
Turn 2’s signature initiative is Jeter’s Leaders, a leadership development program that provides young people with unique opportunities to learn more about themselves and their communities. Participants are expected to model positive behavior and deliver a message to their peers focused on staying in school, rejecting substance abuse and serving their communities.
The process for becoming a Leader is highly competitive. Turn 2 selects about 20 youths each year from a pool of hundreds of applicants living in the New York metro area or West Michigan, where Derek and Sharlee were raised. Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, furnish letters of recommendation and complete an essay on leadership before submitting to multiple rounds of interviews.
“We’re continuing to send them off to school and teaching them at a young age to give back, be a role model and to be kind,” Sharlee said. “We try to provide kids with mentors who believe in them and support them; positive role models to teach them skills so they are in a position to do the right thing. These role models also give our kids opportunities — access to career days, paid internship opportunities, and college tours.”
So far, the Leaders are seeing a 100% high school graduation rate and they are earning acceptances in excellent colleges. And thanks to the work of the Turn 2 Foundation and its partners, Jeter’s Leaders are eligible for scholarship opportunities to help make it possible for more students to reach their goals for a college education.
“In 21 years of the program, we’ve had 20 graduating classes of young people who are out there striving to stay positive and succeed. They’re using what they learned as Jeter’s Leaders, and are working to flip the negative narratives, including those that come through social media. By serving as leaders and remaining true to their positive values, these students are able to make a profound difference in their communities.”
And each morning when she wakes up, Sharlee puts her feet on the floor knowing that the mission of Turn 2 and her work on The Stuffis having an impact, “Our Jeter’s Leaders are incredibly smart kids,” she said. “If you ever meet them, you start to feel better about where society is headed these days.”
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To learn more about how you can support the Turn 2 Foundation, visit www.turn2foundation.org.
More information on The Stuff can be found at https://thestuffmovement.com/.