Youth

Find A Tree Circle LogoFind A Tree helps youth, from children to young adults, to identify their interests, discover their passions, and actualize their dreams by giving them the tools and motivation to unlock their potential.

6-14 Year Olds15-24 Year OldsAt-Risk Youth

6-14 Year Olds

The Find A Tree youth workbook provides children with age appropriate activities to nurture their dream with knowledge and action. Find A Tree program creator, Daniel Armstrong, had a fascination with government and at the age of 3½, dictated a letter to his mother for the U.S. President.

He wrote to the widow of another U.S. President on the passing of her husband. He was 6½ at the time. Daniel’s mother nurtured the seeds of his dream. You can help your child as well with the Find A Tree youth workbook, Live Your Dreams Now: Read About It! Write About It! And Do Something!

THRIVE...DON’T JUST SURVIVE

Daniel Armstrong Motivates 6th Grade Students to Find Their Passion

In his speech at Chadwick Village School during their 6th grade promotional ceremonies, Daniel Armstrong from Find A Tree reveals how students can take action in elementary, middle, and high school to change their lives forever. In this powerful video, Daniel tells how young people can realize their dreams to move forward to greatness, not just live in mediocrity. Based on his book, How to Live Your Dreams: Find a Tree and Get Started, Daniel's Find A Tree educational program has been recognized for changing the lives of youths across many levels—from incarcerated gang members to students in exclusive private schools, such as Chadwick. Daniel teaches them to identify talents and passions and take the necessary steps toward achieving their dreams.

Live Your Dreams Now: Read About It! Write About It! And Do Something!

THE YOUTH WORKBOOK

Live Your Dreams Now

Read About It! Write About It! And Do Something!

Daniel Armstrong’s Live Your Dreams Now: Read About It! Write About It! And Do Something! helps students discover a pathway to their dreams, and to be excited about doing so. This workbook is practical and engaging, with real-life stories and useful solutions that supports students aged 6-14 years old to develop their dreams and begin to pursue them immediately. “Dreams start now” is Daniel’s message and this workbook shows young people how to get started. This workbook creates intrinsic motivation within youth that will last a lifetime. Armstrong delivers a fresh insight and inspires students to find their dreams so they can create a better world.

Click Letter to Enlarge View

THE 5TH GRADE CHALLENGE

Once, while working with a group of high school students in Los Angeles, I asked them to list their talents, interests, and dreams. Then I asked them to share their list with their classmates. The students were terrified. Only after I suggested that we turn out the lights and that the students put their heads down were they willing to share their lists with one another.

A few weeks later, I did the same exercise with a class of fifth-graders at First Street Elementary School. The elementary students were excited about standing in front of the class and sharing their dreams. I was amazed. I told them that many students at the nearby high school were embarrassed to share their dreams with their classmates. The fifth-graders were confused. Then one student raised his hand and asked, “Mister, have they given up on their dreams?” I said, “Maybe they have.”

In response, the elementary students wrote the following letter challenging the high school students to go after their dream!

THEY FOUND THEIR TREE

Gabriel Hochberg
Dallas, Texas

Daniel Armstrong and Gabriel Hochberg

WHAT’S YOUR DREAM?

My dream is for trees to be planted everywhere so we can keep the earth from getting so hot. Also, all the animals and birds that have homes in trees will have a nice place to live.

Gabriel Hochberg

...AND WHAT ARE YOUR DOING ABOUT IT?

My dad and I are teaching children about global warming, how the ice is melting, and why trees are so important. Through schools, we are giving baby trees to kids to plant with their parents at home.

PATHWAYS TO YOUR DREAM FOR YOUTH

  1. Look Within: Identify What You Enjoy Doing
  2. What’s Your Dream? Imagine Your Future…It All Begins with a Dream
  3. Explore Life: Try New Activities and Explore New Interests
  4. Learn About Your Dream: Read About It
  5. Depend Upon Yourself: Accept Responsibility for Making Your Dream Come True
  6. Mistakes Happen: Learn from Them
  7. Earn the Trust of Others: Keep Your Word
  8. Face the Challenge: Don’t Quit
  9. Think Positively: Focus on the Goal Not the Obstacle
  10. Help Others: Make the World a Better Place
  11. Value People: Treat All People with Respect
  12. Make a Plan: Write Down What You Are Going to Do Today, Tomorrow and Next Week
  13. Produce Excellence: Do Your Best…And Then a Little More
  14. Big Dreams Start Small: Take Action—Today!
  15. Be Creative: Find Solutions
  16. Believe In Yourself: Think, “Yes I Can”
  17. Be a Leader: Be an Example
  18. Start a Business: Make Something, Do Something, Sell Something
  19. It’s Not a Birthday Party: Knowledge + Action = Your Dream

15-24 Year Olds

Graduate

What Are You Going to Study in College?

I don't know.

Why Are You Going to College?

...because I'm supposed to?

Schools today teach students to go college, but they don't necessarily teach them how to achieve their dreams, how to discover and use their talents.

When graduating high school many teens know they should go to college, but don't know what career they wish to go into. This is a fundamental problem that is plaguing many high school graduates.

GABY WILKERSON

Gaby Wilkerson Finds Her Tree and Raises $40,000 for Cancer Victims

How to Live Your Dreams Book

HOW TO LIVE YOUR DREAMS

FIND A TREE AND GET STARTED

  • A Practical Blueprint for Personal and Professional Growth
  • Lessons That Jump Off the Pages to Spark Real Life Change
  • Thoughtful Exercises That Transition Readers from Dreamers to Doers
  • A Powerful Journey of Self-Discovery and Progress
  • The Best Chapter Is Unwritten – It’s Where You Pursue Your Dreams

A How-To Book that begins with what – What is your dream and what can you do to reach it? Renowned motivational speaker and dream coach, Daniel Armstrong, provides a step-by-step model for self-empowerment, extending beyond simple encouragement and into active guidance – inspiring readers to overcome obstacles in pursuit of their dreams.

From front to back, How to Live Your Dreams methodically unveils Armstrong’s keys to success, while engaging readers to apply them to their own lives. There will be transformations, as excuses become opportunities. There will be results, as challenges become triumphs.

While every turned page represents a step towards profound achievement, each individual reader’s respective experience will be unique.

How much different will your life be when your dreams come true?
Find a tree and get started…

THE FIND A TREE PRINCIPLES

  1. Identify What You Are Passionate About—Your Interests, Talents, and Gifts
  2. Determine Your Dream: Find a Tree and Get Started
  3. Explore Life
  4. Nurture Your Dream with Knowledge
  5. Empower Yourself
  6. Be Willing to March into Hell
  7. Build the Trust of Others
  8. Embrace Struggle
  9. Sometimes You Just Have to Have Faith
  10. Create Opportunities through Service
  11. Value People
  12. Plan, Prioritize, and Manage Your Time
  13. Distinguish yourself with excellence
  14. Understand the Process: From a Seed to a Tree
  15. Tap Into Your Creative Genius
  16. You Will Achieve What You Expect and Try For
  17. Lead Yourself
  18. Start a Business
  19. Work in Harmony with Universal Law (There is No Santa Claus)

At-Risk Youth

"When you lose your dream you die. There are a lot of
people walking around dead, and don’t even know it."

—Unknown

Gang members provide new members a road map for achieving success and respect in their gang. By contrast, parents, teachers, and other responsible adults do not provide at-risk youth a roadmap to their dream, other than the admonition to "stay in school."

We, too, must provide students a road map to help them rise and achieve their dreams. The Find A Tree program provides all youth, regardless of circumstances or background, a pathway to achieve success and the tools to make it happen.

LIVE YOUR DREAM

NOW OR NEVER

Juvenile inmates at the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier, California shot this video. When one inmate shared his dream of "one day" being a film maker, Daniel Armstrong, the creator of the Find A Tree program, challenged this juvenile offender not to wait, but start by making his first film while incarcerated. This video shows how Daniel Armstrong and his Find A Tree program changed the lives of incarcerated youth.

THEY FOUND THEIR TREE

Darwin Ramirez from Lockup to Beverly Hills

Darwin Ramirez

One of the birthplaces of the Find A Tree program was at the California Youth Authority’s Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Institution in Whittier, California. Since the Find A Tree program was at Nelles for nearly one year, there are many stories that come from that environment. This piece illustrates my experience at Nelles seen through the story of Darwin Ramirez.

* * *

Darwin Ramirez was raised by a single mother who, because she worked two jobs, often left him to watch his two younger brothers. By age nine, Darwin began to associate with and admire members of various local gangs. Fighting, stealing, and rebelling against authority soon became a way of life for him.

One day before a gang fight, Darwin and his girlfriend were with other gang members in a local park. The other gang members threw their gang signs. Darwin responded with his own. A fight quickly ensued. Darwin and fellow gang members ran the other gang members out of the park. Upset, Darwin went home and got a gun. He went out looking for rival gang members. Darwin found a group of guys from another gang and shot at them. One person was hit. Darwin and his friends got away.

Still upset from the previous fight, the next day he went out again, armed and looking for rival gang members. After a brief fight with a group of rivals, Darwin shot one of them. Darwin recalled, “At that time in my life, I did not care about anything. The only thing I cared about was my gang.”

Darwin Ramirez

This time he was arrested and incarcerated for attempted murder. At age fourteen, Darwin was sentenced to fourteen years and eight months at the California Youth Authority’s Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Institution.

At Nelles, Darwin continued to promote gang activity. Fighting rival gang members was his favorite pastime. He used his considerable leadership skills to maintain gang members’ rules and traditions—“jailhouse rules.”

Darwin was sent to lock-down—a one-room isolation cell for disruptive inmates. In lock-down, inmates or “wards,” as they are called by the state, were kept in a room by themselves or sometimes two in a room for twenty-three hours a day. Inmates showered in a cage. He spent a year under these conditions. Once Darwin got a roommate, and they “fought until they could not lift their arms anymore,” according to Darwin.

While in lock-down, Darwin was elevated by his peers to “shot caller”—a position of honor for a gang leader. After a year in lock-down, he was moved to Adams Cottage. Darwin tried to exert his newfound leadership role as a shot caller by establishing the jailhouse rules in Adams Cottage. He initiated and encouraged fights and rebellious behavior, and he exacerbated racial tension. The staff, under the leadership of Derek Finks, disciplined Darwin continuously. He was denied all personal property, given limited recreation time, and was required to be in bed by 7 p.m.

He soon recognized that his agenda would not be tolerated in Adams Cottage. Through the considerable influence of Mr. Finks and the Adams Cottage staff, he began to conform to the institution’s rules. The young inmate earned rewards for good behavior: to have a room, get mail, and stay up until 9:30 p.m. Darwin found that he enjoyed the benefits of living within the law. However, rival gang members at Nelles knew of his past and continued to attack him when he interacted with other young men at the institution’s school.

In August of 1999, Mr. Finks told the wards that a new program was coming to Adams called Find A Tree. Nearly forty wards signed up for the program, but only twenty could enroll. After undergoing an extensive interview with Finks, Darwin was selected for the program.

Darwin realized immediately that he could learn a great deal from the Find A Tree program. He felt the program could take him to “another level in his life.” He also recognized that he had to heal from the emotional scars of his life. In one class period, Darwin shared with the class the story of the day he was to meet his father and how his father rejected him. In front of his peers and former rivals, Darwin shamelessly cried. The shot caller shared his heart and pain.

Find A Tree classes included basketball training where Darwin learned how to deal with people as teammates on the basketball court. At an initial training session, I stopped practice when I sensed that the mood had suddenly changed. I asked, “What is going on?” After a long pause, Darwin stepped forward, pointed to another player on the court, and announced, “This jerk stepped on my foot, and I’ve gotta knock his ass out.” Practice was adjourned for an on-the-court session on human relations. Darwin got the point and apologized.

Darwin Ramirez

In the Find A Tree class, students discussed character, the necessity of struggle, time management, and writing a plan of action. At one point the students did not complete a major assignment, which was to write their personal plan of action for how they were going to pursue their dream in jail and upon their release, despite having a month to work on it. In response to their lack of motivation, I informed the class that “I could not help people who did not want to help themselves.”

I abruptly announced my departure and indicated that there was nothing more that I could do for them. Many expressed their disappointment and their sense of betrayal in this decision. One student said, “Every time I find myself liking someone, they walk out…just like my dad… He walked out on me too.” Another said, “Go ahead and leave… You shouldn’t have come here anyway! You know we are criminals, and we don’t like to write!” Darwin recalled, “When Mr. Armstrong walked out on us I was hurt, but I had to put on my mask—that jailhouse mask that you always have so you do not let anyone know what you are feeling. A lot of us in the class put that mask on when Mr. Armstrong left. We were mad, but we just acted like we did not care.” The next day, the students met with Mr. Finks, their senior counselor, to discuss their anger with me. Mr. Finks explained the importance of putting their thoughts on paper. Many participants recognized that they had not been giving their best effort to the program. That night the students worked until 3 a.m. on their assignment. They continued to write for the next five days, sometimes in the shower area when no other space was available. Darwin demonstrated his proficiency at writing and working on the computer as he helped and guided others with how to write their plans. Five days after my departure, I returned to the class where the students presented well-conceived plans of action. Impressed, I said that I would do all I could to help them. The students apologized for their lack of motivation in the past and pledged to work harder in the future. The students, staff, and I embraced. Some cried. Darwin said, “When we got together with Mr. Armstrong again, we let loose. No one could keep on the mask that hid our feelings anymore. We let out our true feelings.” Following this renewed commitment, Darwin called on his fellow students to organize themselves. He ran for president of Find A Tree at Nelles and won. Darwin recalled, “When I got that position, that was the best feeling. I was feeling the glory. I felt like I did something good. Then I started helping other people write their plans of action for their dreams. This made me feel better and better about myself. But I ended up getting a big head. By the time I got out, I was so confident that I felt I could do anything.”

Darwin’s natural leadership skills developed as he encouraged the group to work as a team and help each other pursue their dreams—despite racial differences, gang affiliation, and being in jail. Ramirez said later, “I once lived a corrupt life, which led me [to Nelles]. The Find A Tree program [gave] me a different point of view in life. It opened my eyes and let me realize that there is more to life than just living a gang life. It gave me the opportunity to realize that I have a dream, and that I can achieve it if I give myself the chance.”

On May 2, 2000, Darwin Ramirez was released from Nelles and immediately called me. I referred him to Jaleesa Hazzard, the executive director of a youth entertainment industry summer jobs program. Hazzard had met Darwin and the Find A Tree class members when she visited Nelles as a guest speaker.

Recalling the experience, Hazzard stated, “The experience we had that first night was extremely interesting. Not knowing what to expect, we sat down with the group. Instead of hardened criminals, they were very focused, communicative, and articulate regarding their own personal goals, and they were anxious to learn whatever we had to offer. I got to know Darwin Ramirez, the leader of the group, who boldly asked me, after hearing what I did, if I would help him when he got out in a few months. Darwin is a prime example of what I think Find A Tree can do for a young person."

“Darwin Ramirez is probably a natural leader, but in his past life he did know how to use this talent in a constructive way. He also had no focus or outlet for his considerable talents and felt powerless to resist the negative forces in his environment. He used his energy for the wrong things, and this practice eventually led him to criminal behavior, the wrong friends, absence from school, and Nelles. However, when he was there, he was lucky enough to become a part of Find A Tree, and he found himself and a plan of action that could change his life. By the time I met him, the light had come on in his eyes, and he was ready to take some positive steps to change his life."

“When Darwin was released, as promised, he called me. As promised, I agreed to see him and to help him if he would stick to his plans. He first did his community service hours with me. He immediately became a valuable part of our office, and I think he began to realize that the lessons he had learned through Find A Tree would serve him out in the real world. He always did his absolute best; nothing short of excellence was good enough for him, and he was on time, focused, and responsible well beyond his years. He put in extra time, and we worked with him on writing a resume and had him apply for our summer program. There were no promises, and he competed with other students from Los Angeles. He secured a job for the summer with BMG Entertainment in the Human Resources/Facilities Department. Their assessment of his work was much like mine. They have been employers of our program for ten years and were quick to say that he was the best student they had ever had. When a permanent position became open in one of their subsidiaries, they referred Darwin with no reservations. He got the job and was a full-time employee with a decent salary, benefits, and a real chance to pursue his dream of a career in entertainment.”

After working at BMG’s subsidiary, Killer Tracks, for over a year, Darwin Ramirez violated his parole terms and returned to jail for six months. He was released and returned to working in the entertainment industry for a television production company. Darwin said of his saga, “I have gone through struggle and failure, and now I am trying to get to where I was the first time I got out of Nelles. I am working as hard as I can to live my dream.”

One of the lessons to be learned from Darwin is the importance of your associations, particularly if you are attempting to turn your life around. Living your dream may require breaking off close ties with friends and even family members if being in their company is detrimental to your development and progress.

Living your dream is like climbing a mountain. In pursuing your goals, you may fall. The test will be your ability to get back up and climb again. Darwin fell. He has gotten back up and is striving to reach his dream and potential. Ultimately, Darwin’s test will be his ability to learn from the mistakes that caused him to fall and correct them as he climbs the mountain of his dreams.

Darwin Ramirez

Darwin Ramirez Update

Since 2003, Darwin has worked in the field of social services. He currently works for a non-profit agency assisting under-privileged youth who come from low-income families in violence-plagued communities.

“Find A Tree was a life changer for me, no matter how bad my situation or how many times I fell. With Find A Tree as my foundation, I was able to rebuild my life. Thank you Find A Tree.”

—Darwin Ramirez