In this newsletter, Peter Findler outlines our new after-school program, a student-led podcast called “Operation CREST.” The program provides an opportunity for high school students to conduct and digitize interviews with America’s veterans and learn valuable skills in creating their own podcast episodes. By participating, students learn valuable leadership lessons while simultaneously having a chance to serve as each recorded interview is donated to the Library of Congress through their "Veterans History Project." Likewise, participating veterans are given a chance to continue to serve their nation by sharing their stories with students.

This program invites listeners from all over the country inside the small group discussions that make our programming so powerful. You can stream episodes of the show on all major platforms and learn more via our website here.

Why is it called Operation CREST?
C.R.E.S.T. stands for Courage, Resilience, Empowerment, Service, and Teamwork. These traits, embodied by the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 and by post-9/11 veterans, form the basis for the program's curriculum: students are empowered to lead, learn, and serve through preserving veteran memories of courage, resilience, service, and teamwork.

Furthermore, the image of a cresting wave represents a powerful metaphor for leadership as indicated in the logo we chose for this program. The potential of one small ripple can have lasting effects in forming a wave in the ocean just as small acts of leadership can have large impacts on a person’s life and the lives of those around them. It is our hope that students will understand that anyone can lead when called upon to do so, and the qualities of positive leadership are available to all.

Why is Operation CREST needed?
The United States is in a period of declining civic engagement. A study in 2018 from the University of Maryland states that “Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States volunteer rate reach a historical peak…” But since then, the United States “has experienced a significant decline in the percentage of Americans who volunteer…” The COVID-19 global pandemic only made this problem more acute. Two-thirds of those surveyed in a 2021 study stated that they had decreased or stopped volunteering altogether during the pandemic.

Relatedly, recent research in the field of adolescent psychology has revealed startling trends that require attention and action. In 2019, one in three high school students reported pervasive feelings of sadness or hopelessness, 40% higher than it was in 2009. In 2019, approximately one in six teenagers reported making a plan for suicide, a 44% increase over the previous ten years. As with civic engagement, these issues worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, an event that further isolated young people from loved ones and from each other.

How will this program work to help solve the problems outlined above?
Operation CREST brings veterans and high school students together to serve through discussing and recording conversations about positive leadership traits. Students serve through digitizing veteran experiences for future generations, while veterans serve by imparting the leadership lessons they’ve learned to young people.

Service is a vital part of building a more civically engaged society and is a crucial aspect of healthy living. Recent studies show that serving is one of the most restorative ways for people, young and old, to improve their mental health because it reduces stress and provides a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life. In an effort to tackle the mounting mental health crisis among teenagers, the Surgeon General’s “Advisory on Youth Mental Health,” published in 2021, makes a series of recommendations, many of them based on serving others:
  • For young people: to find opportunities to serve in their communities
  • For adults and caregivers: to connect young people with positive role models who can serve as mentors
  • For community organizations: to implement evidence-based programs that promote healthy development and increase resilience
Operation CREST provides a connection between young people and veterans to service.

Where can I hear these conversations of leadership between young people and veterans?
You can hear the podcast on our website at or subscribe via the following platforms: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora.

Does The 9:57 Project need help in spreading the word about this program?
Yes! We are in search of partner teachers that wish to implement this program at their schools. Feel free to share this newsletter and our contact information ( with anyone that you think might be interested.