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Finding out what it takes

N. Marcia Harris instructed her visitors to fasten their seatbelts because they were about to take a journey of "love, relaxation and energy."

Harris, a motivational speaker with YOUnique Lifeskills Workshops in Portsmouth, visited the center Thursday night, asking those in attendance "Do you have what it takes?"

"I believe people will leave here tonight empowered, believing they have what it takes, no matter how high the goal," Teresa McKenzie, outreach coordinator for the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education's (OACHE) Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), said.

The EOC was created for Appalachian Ohioans to realize that they, too, may obtain a college education.

"It can happen," McKenzie said. "It may be harder, but they can do it."

Harris said her goals were to serve others possibly unaware of their abilities and skills and help them realize that they are special and unique, increasing self-esteem.

During her presentation, Harris presented six "life areas" which were family, friends, education, physical self, possessions and work and nine "personal initiatives" which were appreciating uniqueness, connecting with others, being goal driven, striving to achieve, acting courageously, responding with resilience, living with one's own values, valuing spirituality, and releasing creativity.

When people are toddlers, Harris said, they have no trouble achieving their personal initiatives.

"You sang, you danced and you rock-and-rolled," she said. "You knew you were there to sing and dance. When you saw other kids on a two-wheeled bike, you no longer wanted training wheels."

People sometimes lose those abilities when they become adults, Harris said, because they are doing what they believe is expected of them.

"A toddler speaks right from the heart," she said. "We go through the motions, and we learn to be robots. We stop living and we don't know who we are anymore. We're told how to think."

Toward the end of her presentation, Harris asked members of the audience if they believed they had some of the personal initiatives that she presented. When each person was holding the signs, she asked everyone to turn them around, spelling, "effective." This was an exercise in learning how communication skills and recognizing the abilities of others as well as the abilities of oneself, she said.

Susan Taylor, director of Operation Be Proud, said she was inspired by Harris and believed that she could apply some of her presentation areas to herself. Harris and Taylor met several years ago while Harris was speaking to children.

"She spoke to kids from 10-13 who have issues at home, whether it be economic issues or they're living with a single parent or a grandparent," Taylor said. "The kids were really excited and were wanting to go home and tell Mommy all about it."

However, Taylor was disappointed at the low turnout for the event, saying that those who did not come missed out on a chance to enrich their lives.

Elaine Payne, a supportive services counselor with the CAO, said she was also disappointed that more people did not come, but said she was pleased with the program, saying the people who did come would be motivated.

Nevertheless, Harris said she was pleased to be at Operation Be Proud.

"The sky is the limit," she said. "There's no reason not to accomplish your goals. There's nothing to lose but yourself. Think seriously, do you have what it takes? If you don't, do you know what it takes?"