Life is all about the people we meet.
As an incoming freshman at Elk Grove High School, I remember seeing some upperclassmen wearing these cool baseball jerseys. I found out they were members of the Associated Student Body (ASB) team. It was at that moment I decided I wanted to wear one of those jersey. I wanted to wear that jersey because of the dedication, energy, and excellence that I saw from those who were wearing the jersey. I wanted to wear that jersey because those who wore it led by serving. And, I wanted to wear that jersey because they looked cool. I found out through my friends the man behind the jerseys – our student government adviser – was Mr. Dan Newton. I later learned first-hand that he was also the force behind the dedication, energy, and excellence.
One of my earliest encounters with Mr. Newton was when I ran for the Athletic Chair on ASB leading into my junior year. I lost. However, Mr. Newton called me in and discussed an open position as a School Board Representative. That second chance enabled me to spend my junior year working with a great team of juniors and seniors. My buddy Elliott and I were the sole guys on a team of twenty-four. Being a School Board Rep meant preparing speeches with my teammate Jamie by working with students, teachers, and our principal then delivering those speeches in front of the school board and community leaders. The public speaking and interaction with leaders of the community were priceless. So too were the incredible relationships that I formed both at Elk Grove and across the state of California with other young high school leaders.
Mr. Newton allowed us to make our own decisions as young leaders, which meant that there would inevitably be mistakes. I would like to say everything was perfect during my senior year as student body president, but I made my share of mistakes. We had an amazing team. We would discuss the choices and then the mistakes, and he would offer insight, wisdom, and ways to improve. Newt-Dogg never wanted us to fear trying something new or making a mistake. If we were putting forth our best effort, we had his complete support.
One of the best decisions we made as a leadership team was to purchase and implement the “Wisdom Minute” as part of the morning announcements. It was a short story with a quote and always ended with, “Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.” Mr. Newton brought the idea to our team then left it up to us to decide whether we wanted to move forward with it. We eventually decided to go for it and though at times it seemed cheesy, the Wisdom Minute became a fun and encouraging staple to our morning announcement. He presented us with an opportunity and then allowed us to make an adult decision.
Thank you, Mr. Newton, for your dedication, encouragement, life lessons, energy, and commitment to excellence. Please know that your spirit of selfless service lives on in the lives of your students who are spread out across the country and around the world. And thank you for the opportunity to learn from you and grow as a leader.
David A. Brown-Dawson, 27 September 2017