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Ben Carson grew up in a single-parent home where he was challenged by dire poverty, poor grades, a horrible temper and low self-esteem. Although he dreamed of being a doctor, Carson struggled until his mother, with only a third-grade education, challenged Carson and his brother to strive for excellence.

Carson eventually overcame his temper and low self-esteem to realize his dream. He is currently professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the author of five books including "Gifted Hands" and "Think Big."

Seventeen years ago, Carson and his wife wanted to encourage children to fulfill their dreams. They started the Carson Scholars Fund to recognize and reward the best and brightest students across the country. To date they have 2,300 alumni and have paid out more than $2.5 million in scholarships.

During a recent ceremony, Carson congratulated the fourth- through 11th-grade scholarship recipients. These young people have at least a 3.75 GPA, demonstrate humanitarian qualities, serve on student councils. Some have founded their own nonprofits, while others are taking college-level courses.

They are from all walks of life and have demonstrated that they are innovative thinkers and leaders and aren't afraid to question the status quo.

After celebrating their accomplishments, Carson challenged scholars to think big.

• "T" stands for "talent." "We are all born with God-given talents. We have a responsibility to develop them to the best of our ability."

• "H" is for "honesty." Carson told the crowd about a time when a woman accused him of fathering her child. He told the students that, when the media frenzy was at its height, he was not worried because he knew something nobody else knew. He had never slept with anyone besides his wife. "Skeletons in the closet will come back to haunt you," said Carson. "The life you lead will always trump any accusation anybody makes about you."

• "I" stands for "insight." Learning from others will allow you to go further faster.

• "N" is for "nice." "Be nice to others, and they will be nice to you. Don't talk about people behind their back. Speak to people. Help people who are struggling. Think about others first."

• "K" stands for "knowledge." Material things really don't matter. Knowledge, wisdom and understanding are more important. Knowledge will help you develop your God-given talents.

• "B" is for "books." "Reading will expand your mind and take you amazing places. I remember I hated that we were poor. When my mom started making us read books, I found out I could go lots of places in my mind. You need to read actively. Not doing this is like thinking that you can develop muscles by watching somebody else work out."

• "I" stands for "in-depth learning versus cramming." So many young people wait until the last minute to study for a test. Carson told scholars that learning is an opportunity and encouraged them to look at it as a gift.

• "G" stands for "God." "Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values. There is nothing wrong with using godly principles to guide your life."

Sage wisdom worth sharing.

Email Julie Baumgardner at julieb@firstthings.org.

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