The following story was submitted by Taylor White and Maddy Glover from Centerville High School in Centerville, OH.
“The Mike Smith event taught me that everyone is going through something. So you should treat everyone with respect and you could even meet a friend in the process,” Centerville High School senior Ally Stephenson said. Mike Smith, an inspirational speaker and “professional teenager”, travels around the country encouraging leadership in communities and urging people to change their perspective on others, thus choosing to make a difference in their world. At his Springfield, Ohio stop, the 50 yearbook students from Centerville danced, laughed, sang and listened with their hearts.
“It was an amazing experience full of people and excitement. It was cool to see how Mike Smith’s words inspired everyone,” senior Ashley Long said. Smith told the students and faculty who attended the Josten’s Renaissance Back to School Tour at Wittenberg University a story of how he wanted to save people from the mundane rhythms many seem to fall into during high school. Smith wanted to make a difference, to change people’s lives and teach others to do the same.
“This event was really eye-opening for me because you never know someone’s backstory and what they’ve been though. Mike taught us to always respect people because you never know how much your friendship with someone could impact their life,” senior Sarah Siroky said.
Smith’s most profound story was about a freshman boy named Calvin, who saw himself as invisible. Smith decided to become his best friend and take him “under his wing.” To Smith’s dismay, it was not as easy as he thought it would be. Smith assumed he was saving Calvin. Quickly changing his own perspective, Smith realized he was not the one doing the ‘saving’. “That kid saved us…”
After sharing his story, Smith posed the question, “How many Calvins are sitting in the back of your school right now?” He challenged the students to really think about that. Passing harsh judgments and talking behind students’ backs won’t enhance a school’s atmosphere.
“The thing that stood out to me the most was when Mike said, ‘Judgment isn’t just a high school problem…It’s a society problem,’” junior Alex Cooper remembered.
For Centerville High School yearbook adviser Ms. Colleen Sanders, the day took an unexpected turn when she suddenly saw herself on the video screen above the stage. There were her students and peers, offering praise and acknowledgement to their friend and teacher. The surprise had been carefully orchestrated.
Jostens representative Donny Boyd had emailed several CHS students with the idea, and senior Taylor White took on the project. “I was ecstatic when I received the message. I look up to Sands tremendously and am really close with her. This was an opportunity to show her how much her students all care about her and what she stands for as an educator,” White said.
Ms. Sanders received a Mike Smith skateboard plaque to take back to Centerville.
“To say I was surprised would be an understatement,” Sanders said. “I cried my eyes out, but they were happy tears. To be at this inspiring event with Mike Smith and then receive such encouragement and affection from my kids made it an incredible, memorable day. My staff brought that enthusiasm back with them, and I know they’ll do great things for our school.”
Ideas flowed as students learned that they had the power to make their school even better.
Smith tried to show the students that even something as simple as a smile or a high five could change someone’s day. Part of his message: students and teachers need to take positive attitudes and culture into education and bring them back out into the community surrounding the schools.
Finally, Smith shared with the crowd the big “ah-ha”. “You guys have to learn to stand for something.” Faces in the crowd turned from attentive to comprehending. “We all want to stand for something, but are we willing to actually do so? We all need to search, and find what we are looking for. We will not just happen upon our purpose by mistake. I want to know what you stand for, what you want to do, what you want to accomplish, and if you are you willing to change for the better good of the community. Everyone…every one of you…wants to be incredible. So go be incredible. Make a change.”