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Q+A With Jenny Kerr Schroen and Chris Eccleston: Grit Leads to Greatness

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Construction

Q+A With Jenny Kerr Schroen and Chris Eccleston: Grit Leads to Greatness

The co-authors of Grit Leads to Greatness: An Epic Quest Built to Change the World are getting an enthusiastic response to their book and are finding its message resonates deeply with students, school administrators, and parents alike


February 12, 2024
"Grit Leads to Greatness" book reading by a builder to kids in the classroom
Builders and contractors nationwide have purchased "Grit Leads to Greatness" for entire classes and often volunteer to read the book to students.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Pro Builder.
Jenny Kerr Schroen and Chris Eccleston, authors of "Grit Leads to Greatness"
Jenny Kerr Schroen /
Chris Eccleston

Creative developer /
Founder and president
Delmarva Veteran Builders

Until about a year ago, Chris Eccleston wasn’t a published author; he was the founder and president ofPB+ icon  Delmarva Veteran Builders (DVB), in Salisbury, Md., the commercial contracting firm he launched in 2013 to help give military veterans opportunities in the construction trades. 

An increasing awareness of the construction industry’s dwindling skilled labor pool, led Eccleston and DVB creative developer Jenny Kerr Schroen to conceive, write, and commission illustrations for Grit Leads to Greatness: An Epic Quest Built to Change the World. The book, which takes its title from DVB’s tagline, targets third-grade students with a message about the critical importance of construction in our society, told via a fantastical storyline with magical characters and world-class illustrations.

PRO BUILDER: What was the impetus for Grit Leads to Greatness?

Chris Eccleston: I wanted kids to feel how I feel about our industry and to let them know they have a role to play in the future of our planet and our world, and that construction plays an important role in everything that touches our lives.

I realized that nobody’s coming to save us. We’ve been complaining about labor shortages for 10 years or more. We can just sit around and wait and do nothing, or we can do something about it.

Jenny Keer Schroen: Since I started working with Chris I’ve been hearing about how contractors are struggling to find workers and carry the torch. So it was like ... how can we start to solve this and bring awareness to this issue?

Grit-to-Greatness book

 

PB: How is Grit Leads to Greatness different from other kids’ books about construction or building? 

CE: We wanted to go to a little bit older audience [third-graders] and get them interested and excited about the opportunities. So we created this futuristic society that has forgotten how to build and then came up with an epic journey adventure story with magical, fantastical characters. It’s a pretty good metaphor for where we are today with the lack of skilled trades.

JKS: We both like stories about how challenges shape who we are. What we created is almost like a map for kids to follow; they go on an adventure and run into obstacles, and characters teach them about lost trade skills. But [readers] don’t realize until the end that the journey actually turns them to the path they’re supposed to be on. 

PB: What’s been the response to Grit Leads to Greatness

JKS: We launched it in the first week of March last year during Read Across America Week. We told all of our local contractors what we were doing and asked them to consider buying a classroom-full of books and to then go into a school and read to the kids. About 50 companies stepped up to buy 25 or 30 books each.

CE: Originally it was just going to be something we did for our local area to help solve our own problem here. Then I sent the manuscript to a few people I knew in the industry and within two weeks we were getting national attention. So we thought, maybe we’ve struck a nerve here. 

We sold about 3,000 books right away, but we’d only ordered 5,000. We thought we were going to sell out before we even launched on Amazon. So we made the decision to publish another 10,000 copies and we have them piled in boxes in one of our offices. 

JKS: We wanted each kid to have their own book to take home so they could read it again to reinforce the message, and read it with their parents. Not just a book you can check out from the library but that you can actually take home and feel special because you have your own copy.

Some of these kids live at the poverty level and don’t own a book, so to get one that happens to be about grit and about construction is a cool way to start to change the minds of a generation. 

Grit-to-Greatness classrooms

RELATED


PB: How do you define “grit”? 

JKS: In the book, it’s like a superpower; a courageous force from within that gives you the power to face any challenge and also the guts to keep going even when things are difficult. 

We used it for the title to highlight that grit plays a huge role in construction. It should be looked at as something heroic to be admired. And to show that construction really does save the world. 


To purchase the book and support the cause, go to gritleadstogreatness.com.

 

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Written By
Editorial Director

Rich Binsacca is editorial director of Pro Builder Media, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS. He has reported and written about all aspects of the housing industry since 1987 and most recently was editor-in-chief of Pro Builder Media. rbinsacca@sgcmail.com

 

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