Guest Blogger – Tom McCollum: Making WhyTry Work for You

Tom’s Story with WhyTry

One of the great things about the WhyTry program is its versatility.  The program was designed to be adapted and changed in order to meet the unique and diverse needs of students around the world. 

Tom McCollum, of Oxnard, California, shared with us a little of how he was able to not only adapt the WhyTry Program for his students but also how he used these adaptations to help his students achieve measurable success.  He talks “making WhyTry work for you.” 

Tom says, “After 29 years in the classroom and on the court as a basketball coach, I cannot tell you how many times I heard a frustrated kid, and parents for that matter, pose [the question] ‘Why should I even try?.’”

Tom continues, “I have taught at the junior high, high school, community college, California State University, and University of California levels.  This query was not confined to any one of those levels.  The answer that WhyTry provided was simply, ‘Because you are worth the effort.’  The key is introducing the individual to just what an amazing person they are.”

Not long after he attended a WhyTry training, Tom found himself as the head of a program that aimed to help students cope and thrive both socially and in the academic setting. He reviewed the current program then took what he had learned from WhyTry. He created a curriculum that included teaching the WhyTry Program to the other program’s freshman students, based on the idea of “making WhyTry work for you.”

Tom continued with the students and describes that “during their sophomore year, [they] delved more deeply into the [WhyTry] concepts, conducting Socratic seminars on specific issues, and writing reflections on their thoughts on these issues as we explored more deeply those perplexing issues of life that confound teenagers and their parents and teachers. During their junior year, personal statement essays were formulated from these explorations.  By their senior year in the program, students were holding each other accountable using the tenets of the Why Try program.”

Tom’s WhyTry adapted program became highly successful. Before the program was implemented, the college acceptance rate in the area was extremely low.  Within a couple of years of implementing an adaptation of WhyTry and the school’s previous program, students were passing the High School Exit Exam at a rate of 100%. They also had over 90% of seniors get admitted to four-year universities.  

Tom became the recipient of many awards and was acknowledged on both local and state levels for his contribution to education. However, Tom shared that “the greatest acknowledgment, though, came from the parents of my students who said, ‘I don’t know what you are doing with my child, but keep it up – they are growing up right before my eyes!’”


There is no right or wrong way to use WhyTry. Every teacher has students with different needs to be met, and making WhyTry work for you is all about knowing these unique needs. At WhyTry, we encourage you to get creative, get involved, and find the best way that WhyTry can work for YOU!

We would love to hear about your different experiences and adaptations. Email your story to

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