This year marks Chris Daniel’s 30th Anniversary with Families & Schools Together. Over the last three decades, Mr. Daniel has valued traveling the world, building relationships with different people, and exposing himself to new cultures and perspectives — helping train FAST programs in 44 states in the U.S. and four countries internationally: Brazil, England, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
“I’ve always been a person who embraced culture,” he said. “I feed off of people. I appreciate interaction with people because, with every interaction, I gain so much more by tapping into the insight of another, seeing the world a bit from their vantage point.”
Mr. Daniel first became involved in FAST when employed by the Racine Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, now known as Focus on Community, in his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin. When the organization became one of the first sites to implement the FAST middle school model in the early 1990s, Mr. Daniel, who worked as a teen peer coordinator for high school students at the time, was asked to serve as the FAST Program Coordinator. He was certified as a trainer shortly thereafter.
As part of his training, Mr. Daniel had the opportunity to observe a FAST Program in the Madison-area. That program was led by Arthur Morgan, whom Mr. Daniel looked up to and described as a FAST “pioneer.”
“It was really impressive to see how the family process was materializing [through FAST], how it was transforming people’s lives in a short time, and how middle school students were really excited about having this relatable gentleman be there for them.”
As someone who has “always been motivated by the energy of young people,” Mr. Daniel said FAST was a perfect fit for him. FAST
not only fulfilled his desire to work with youth but also embraced the importance of effective communication, a topic he had studied in college (he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication in 1993).
“FAST effectively communicates how to empower parents and youth; how to build relationships between parents, build relationships between teachers, build relationships on so many different layers; and at the center of it, for me, is love.”
The program communicates love in a way Mr. Daniel has never experienced; as a man of faith, he believes the FAST Values encapsulated what love means as Christ intended. “It’s a ministry,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to help people build community, in a nutshell.”
The role of FAST Trainers in building this community is to empower — to serve as “masters of empowerment,” according to Mr. Daniel. As a Senior FAST Trainer Supervisor, his goal is to empower Trainer Interns; the Trainer Intern’s role is to empower the FAST Team; the FAST Team, in turn, empowers the parents; and the parents empower their children.
“FAST, in many ways, establishes a true collaboration,” Mr. Daniel said. Representatives from the school and the community come together to support parents — to help parents find their voice by recognizing and respecting them as partners in the process.
In other words, FAST Trainers are responsible for creating an environment to help foster that collaboration and empowerment, which trickles down into the program and persists even after the program ends (and FASTWORKS begins). Mr. Daniel emphasized, “It doesn’t end with FASTWORKS because what parents are saying is, ‘Now that we have a voice, as a community, what do we want to do with this power? How do we want to offer solutions for our school, for our community? What do we want to do collectively? How big do we want to be?’”
While Mr. Daniel has served in many roles supporting youth development and building community over the years, he continues to work with FAST because he still whole-heartedly believes in it.
“FAST has the ability to be world-changing,” he said. “The potential is there, I know that, I don’t doubt it for a second… If people believe in what it says and what it does, FAST has the potential to impact the world — and it has. It already has. It can be a major force to transform many lives.”