Teenagers often need to hear words of encouragement and stories of success to help guide them through the obstacles of their teenage years. Tuesday afternoon, during the ‘Speak Out to Reach Out’ tour at the Friendship Collegiate Academy in the District of Columbia, inspiration and motivation are what the students received.
Each year, the Michael Walton Foundation brings celebrities, entertainers and motivational speakers to students so they can hear stories of success and ask questions of the panelists.
Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, WPGC 95.5 FM radio personalities Guy Lambert and DJ Heat, Miss America 2010 Caressa Cameron, recording artist and motivational speaker Rashida Jolley and Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan were all on hand for the students.
“It’s so critical for us to really reach back to this generation,” said Jolley — a harpist who has toured with Lady Gaga. “I had people who poured into me when I was a kid, and it’s because of people’s faith and belief in me and their words of encouragement that inspired me to go for my dreams.”
DJ Heat, whose off-air name is Nicole Mosley, encouraged the students to persist toward their dreams despite making mistakes. She explained how she lost her job at WPGC in 2001 but never abandoned her dream. In spite of making a mistake that ended in her dismissal, Mosely faced her difficulty head on. She acknowledged her faults and worked to correct them.
“Two years later,” Mosley told the students, “I sent an email to that same boss who fired me and asked him can I have another chance.” A more mature and responsible Mosley vowed not to mess up again if given a second opportunity. She got her second chance and, 10 years later, remains at WPGC as one of the top DJ’s in the country, anchoring the stations morning show.
In an audience of highly energetic peers, it is difficult for youth to express their feelings for fear of ridicule, but one student – touched when Jolley sang her song “Being You” – openly acknowledged that the words of the song touched her.
“She almost made me cry,” Jolley noted. “That moves me because that’s greater than any accolade. Our purpose in doing that song was to have a positive impact. When you see the reason why you did something actually touch somebody, that’s greater than any award. That two-minute song did something for her that could have a positive impact on her life.”
Programs like the one offered by Michael Walton and his foundation have been proven to help youth. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, youth who have mentors and positive encouragement are more likely to stay in school.
Students who regularly meet with mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking. Although The Michael Walton Foundation does not offer mentors, it does provide youth with creative guidance and inspiration through positive and successful people.
One of those people, Caressa Cameron, told the students that it was important for them to search within themselves to find their destiny.
“Each of us is given something that we’re good at,” Cameron stated. “Everybody’s talents are different, so you shouldn’t be looking towards other people to try to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing in life. Find exactly what your passion is, be it math, be it reading, be it singing, be it painting. Whatever it is that you can do use that as a tool to get you where you want to be in life.
“I thought it was important to come here to share with them what someone shared with me that practically changed the trajectory of the rest of my life,” explained Cameron. “These kids need to hear that you can come from nothing and become something.”
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