Motivational speaker tells DBHS students to #039;Be the Best#039;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 20, 2005

They shouted, applauded, laughed and cried with all the enthusiasm of a pep rally.

But Dawson-Bryant High School students didn't gather in their gymnasium Tuesday to cheer for the Hornets; they were listening to a man with a game plan for their lives off the court.

National motivational speaker and author Harvey Alston visited the school, bringing his message of "Be the Best" to the hundreds of teens sitting on the edge of their bleachers.

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Alston, a former teacher and coach, began the event with a little fill-in-the-blank exercise designed to mimic his generation's way of communicating with the next:

"If I've told you onceŠ" Alston said pacing up and down the court.

"Š I've told you a thousand times!" the students shouted in reply.

Cupping his ears, Alston said, "Whenever I tell you something, it goes in one earŠ"

"Š And out the other!" hundreds of teens roared back laughing.

Alston broke the ice quickly with non-stop humor, but his goal was to help students wade through the rough waters of real life.

Advice on everything from abstinence to self-esteem poured from Alston's mouth as profusely as the sweat drops that fell from his face.

The tuxedo-clad speaker said he enjoys talking to this age group "because we can really make a difference at this point in their lives."

"I think later on, people get so settled in their lives and their dreams have been diminished to the point that they don't care to dream," he said.

"They've dried up like a raisin in the sun and they don't have that hope or enthusiasm any more.

"If they're a little bit older, they've got a job they can't quit, or they have kids that they have to take care of and they get trapped. These kids have such a bright future."

For the immediate future, the schools 10th-graders will take their Ohio Graduation Tests this spring. School officials brought Alston in as part of an ongoing campaign to boost student self-esteem.

Their efforts were not lost on 16-year-old sophomore Hannah Willis. Although she is nervous about the test, she is feeling confident.

"I hope to do well," she said. "A lot of students are really nervous about it because most people don't do well if they don't have the motivation."

Alston visited East High School and South Webster High Schools earlier that morning with the same message of hope to students living in rural Ohio.

"In this area, Dawson-Bryant, like a lot of other school districts in the county, have a lot of kids who are not from the best socio-economic background," said Darrell Humphreys, class officer/student council adviser, social studies teacher and boy's basketball head coach.

"Self-esteem is a major problem for many of our students and many throughout the county," he said. "And that's one of the things we hope to target today. His message of 'Be the Best' will show them they are important and they are capable of bettering themselves and aren't necessarily tied to where they are right now in life."

It is that kind of commitment to their well being that students seem to appreciate.

"There's a lot of help trying to find out your career goals and how to afford college," said Courtney Anson, a 16-year-old junior. "So, there's a lot of people helping you. Š they support you no matter what."

Justin Allen, an 18-year-old senior, agreed.

"They take an interest in you and they will help anybody who wants it," he said.

Like the teachers and administrators at Dawson-Bryant, Alston believes in supporting young people in their goals.

In addition to his teaching and coaching careers, he spent time in the education system as a university counselor, an assistant director of student financial aid on the college level. He is the author of four books, including "Be the Best" and "Black Males."

Alston has been a full-time speaker since 1989, speaking to millions in the United States. The Ohio House of Representatives, the City of Columbus, the Boy Scouts of America, several Lions Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs have recognized him for his efforts.

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