MR/DD, OUS focus on family focus onference

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Students from the Open Door School gathered around Mark Anthony Garrett, patting him on the back, competing for his attention and echoing some of the statements he said had during his keynote address Monday at Ohio University Southern’s Family Life Conference.

“Never give up,” some of them said to him as the followed him through the Riffe Center. “Anything is possible,” said another with a smile — one that was eagerly returned by Garrett. “Everybody means something,” said another as she trailed behind Garrett.

Garrett, a renowned motivational speaker and OU graduate, spoke to nearly 300 students, educators and community members during the conference. The event featured five speakers and sessions on discipline, positive foster parenting and behavior and a showing of the movie “My Louisiana Sky,” a film about the struggles of a mentally disabled couple raising a child.

Email newsletter signup

Garrett kicked off the conference entitled “Everyone Belongs” with a lively presentation about his own personal struggles with poverty, physical and sexual abuse, drug abuse and his placement in special education classes as a child.

“There were days when I didn’t think I would make anything of myself. That’s what I was told, that I was stupid, dumb and would never be anything,” he said.

He said with the help of some influentional teachers and church leaders, he turned his life around and now travels around the county spreading his message of hope and promise.

Garrett challenged youngsters attending the conference, many of them from the Open Door School, to strive to be their best.

“Nobody is a mistake. Every person is here on this earth for a purpose,” he said. “Whether you believe it or not, it’s possible that you can make it.”

It was the third year for the conference, which is a family-focused event, said Robert Pleasant, director of Workforce Development Resource Center Youth Opportunity Program, one of the sponsors of the conference.

“We believe in building strong families and strong communities,” Pleasant said. “It’s important to the Lawrence County community to have these kinds of programs.”

John Boright, one of the organizers of the conference, said each year the conference keeps growing and becoming more diverse. This is the second year OUS has worked with MR/DD.

“We really want to bring awareness to the work MR/DD does and the difference they are making in peoples’ lives,” Boright said. “Families come in all shapes and sizes and that’s what we want to emphasize through this conference.”