How a “Why Not” Attitude Can Awaken Possibilities

Dr. Jacqueline Sanderlin (Dr. Jackie) challenges everyone to adopt a “Why Not” attitude and aim high toward your potential outcomes. Dr. Jackie spontaneously spoke the words, “Why Not?” during a morning outdoor assembly of students instead of the usual admonitions not to run and push each other, and it caught on. Students began addressing her in the halls with “Why not, Dr. Jackie?” A student’s mother made a T-shirt with the saying and Dr. Jackie began “knocking on doors.” She says that she received more yeses than noes from members of the community. They reached out to help and her school’s students increased their scholastic performance by 80% in one year. The students began to feel important receiving community outreach from The Grammys, The Academy Awards, large companies, neighborhood businesses and even individual families. Altogether, Dr. Jackie says they created 350 community partnerships including those with the L.A. Rams, the L.A. Chargers, and the LA Clippers. It wasn’t all about money either. Walmart sent employees to talk about pathways to employment after school. A couple of gang members talked to the students about how not to follow their path. The connections exposed the students to a world outside of what Dr. Jackie calls, “their bubble,” and gave them a sense of importance and possibility that impacted their scholastic performance as well.

The Why Not? Challenge

When Dr. Jackie reached out to her community, she found that people wanted to help. “They said we would love to–but we don’t know who to talk to. We don’t know where to start.” However, the burden wasn’t just on the community, Dr. Jackie also blames the people on the education side for not reaching out. Her staff was stuck with age-old solutions of summer classes and more homework that no student would want to do. She realized that they needed inspiration, not more perspiration to engage the students, so they focused on their school and their own learning. After 30 years as an educator, and experiencing phenomenal success from her first “Why Not?” initiative, she wrote a book The “Why Not?” Challenge: Say “Yes!” to Success with Community-School Partnerships with ten practical steps to develop and sustain powerful partnerships with their own communities. As “Why Not” has continued to evolve, she also developed a consultancy that includes workshops for organizations to use “Why Not” in their own programs.

Not Just Opportunities, But Possibilities

Dr. Nancy says that “Why Not?” opens the mind to possibilities, not just opportunities. And Dr. Jackie agrees. Her initial thoughts were around why should our kids not have the resources of kids in other zip codes? Her kids, which she calls “scholars,” lived in very challenging conditions: some with drug addicted parents, incarcerated parents or no parents at all, homeless, living where she couldn’t dream someone could live. “Why Not?” elevated the entire community.

Listen or watch this inspiring conversation to learn more of the story. And check out Dr. Jackie’s Why Not Incubator at for workshops to start your own “why not” process, and for more information dealing specifically with empowering youth.

“Why Not?” enabled Dr. Jackie to create community and connection and to broadcast the conversation to a national audience. Check out her book, The Why Not? Challenge, for more practical guidance about how to use it yourself.

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