Feature Story

Unlock Your Courage

student at courage day key wall

For the organizers of this year’s Courage Day, the keys are more than just tokens.

The small, red items, which bear the word ‘courage’ on one side and the Widener Pride logo on the other, are tangible reminders of the strength and potential within us all.

“It’s about unlocking your courage, your level or ability, unlocking your potential,” said sophomore Herbie Schulze, one of the lead Courage Day organizers. 

The keys were handed out to Widener students, faculty and staff during this year’s event on March 26. The event brought together the campus community to reflect on personal stories of courage and to inspire others.

“How do we improve courage? It’s a call to action,” said Kaylee Horchak, a junior nursing major who also helped plan the event.

Now in its second year, the student-led day is unique to Widener. Organizers are hoping it transcends campus to stir conversations elsewhere, including in high schools, even becoming a “standard for courage education worldwide,” said Dave McCann, a junior finance major.

Widener’s 30 Apogee Scholars, winners of the High School Leadership Awards who have chosen to attend Widener, plan Courage Day. Another 100 student volunteers help run the event.

The event is held in collaboration with Widener’s Oskin Leadership Institute, the mission of which is to encourage students to lead outside of their comfort zone, with the aim to inspire and prepare students to become strategic leaders and responsible citizens.

As in its inaugural year, the date of Courage Day was kept secret until the campus awoke to find hundreds of signs blanketing the grounds, asking questions such as Do you have the courage to live your truth?  Do you have the courage to choose the harder right?

At locations across campus, students, faculty and staff watched a powerful, student-created Courage Day video, an inflection point for the event. Participants then filled out a key-shaped card, completing the line, “I need to find the courage to….”

The responses to the prompt varied. Some people reflected on the need to find the courage to persevere, while others to ask for help, to listen, and to live one’s best life.

Junior Brennan Edwards filled out two cards in two different locations. His first card reflected his desire to speak up; the second to “step out of my comfort zone.”

“They’re both things you have to do to progress in life,” said Edwards, who is studying human resources management. “If you stay in your comfort zone, you’re not going to go anywhere. And (to speak up), as a business major, I feel I need to make as many connections as possible. These two things go hand-in-hand.”

Edwards’ cards, and hundreds of others, were then pinned to courage walls so friends, classmates and colleagues could read their words.

Participants also received their physical courage key, an item inspired by sophomore nursing major Kayla McCourt, one of the Courage Day student volunteers.

When ready, key holders are encouraged to pass the item on to someone who could benefit from its message. McCann has already passed his key on to his younger brother who was giving a science presentation. “It was for confidence,” said McCann.

Courage Day organizers hope the event helps people realize that courage comes in all forms, shapes and sizes.

“Courage can be found anywhere. It doesn’t have to be charging into battle,” said McCann. “It’s in the little things.”

Adds Theresa Kash: “Something courageous for you may not be for someone else,” said the junior biochemistry major. “We want people to go forward to see different things that represent courage, and use the tools we’ve given them to be courageous.”

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