|Curt Brinkman, right, joins Doug Mecham of Canyon View Junior High School, in talking with students about the Power in You program.|
The message was clear: everyone has the power within to make life the best it can be. The delivery of the message was impressive: the governor, the first lady, the attorney general and a select group of motivational speakers. And the audience was essential: secondary students from throughout Southeastern Utah.
The personal project of First Lady Mary Kaye Huntsman, the Power in You Program has been developed to boost the self-esteem of middle school, junior high school, and high school students as they face the challenges of life as it exists for them now and in the future. The program came to the College of Eastern Utah on Sept. 27, where students from the Emery District joined students from Carbon, Duchesne, San Juan and Grand districts. Locally, Canyon View San Rafael junior highs, Green River High School, and Emery High School were represented.
The First Lady told the students that "you are not alone," "you have the power within each of you," "you all deserve to have a happy life," and "you all have a common ability to believe in yourself and to see a bright future."
Using multi-media presentations, music, speakers and a little audience participation, the program captivated the students for nearly two hours. Those assisting in the presentation of the theme were referred to as ambassadors and included members of Real Salt Lake, the Utah Jazz, pop radio stations, Utah government and main stream life.
Governor Huntsman was among those who sent a strong message to kids. "The decisions you make now are very important, life-changing decisions," he said. "As you see people in school bummed out, say something nice to them. You can be a friend and make their day." He challenged the audience to "find a heroÃ¯Â¿Â½ someone who is a role modelÃ¯Â¿Â½ someone you respect and like."
Saying that there is genius inside everyone, the governor added, "Every one of you has genius. You haven't found it yet, but find out what it is. There is greatness in many areas of each of you, and you don't even know it yet. Find it and nurture it."
|Mary Kaye Huntsman speaks to students.|
Finally, he asked each person to look inside to find an individual passion.
Governor Huntsman also answered a couple of questions from the audience. In response to a question about why he decided to run for governor, he said that Utah is the greatest state in the country and that things have to be done to keep it that way. He specifically pointed to the need to continue economic growth and job building.
When asked who his personal hero is, the governor named his teen-age daughter Elizabeth because of her courage in fighting diabetes each day. "She has dealt with this every day since she was 9," he said. "She doesn't complain. She's strong, and takes it in stride. I see every day what she has to go through."
Elizabeth, in fact, is one of the Power in You ambassadors and spoke to the audience. She talked about her life as a diabetic. "Life gets tough on people with diabetes," she said. "It's with you 24 hours a day, but it's up to me to take care of myself. You do what is necessary over and over, and you get better at it."
She also talked about friendship, saying that being a good friend brings out the best in others, and she asked everyone to consider, "What kind of a friend are you?"
The program began with a video showing students in various school-related scenarios. Each had a label on his or her forehead reflecting a negative connotation: loser, jerk, lazy, stupid, criminal, dumb, etc.
In the introduction of the program, Mrs. Huntsman asked the students, "What is your dream? What do you want to do? What is your passion? Think about it today, and ask yourself who the human being is under the surface. We tend to label ourselves and others, but underneath every label is a wonderful human being." She pointed out that labels hurt. "You are more than labels," she said. "Look at others as you hope others will look at you."
Mrs. Huntsman reinforced the idea of rising above hardships in life by referring to Andrei Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz who grew up in poverty in Russia. "Andrea told me that 'I had to believe in myself because nobody else did,'" she said. "Now he is a star in the NBA." She also pointed to an Olympic silver medalist who was born to drug addicts, lived a life on the streets, and got his meals from garbage cans. "He could have given up," she said, "but in seventh grade he nurtured a dream to rise above his hardships. Now he is a great athlete."
|Renowned motivational speaker Dan Clark talks to area students about setting goals and achieving their dreams.|
Another great athlete, Curt Brinkman, a world-class wheelchair marathoner, attended the program in person. He recalled growing up in Shelley, Idaho, as a 6'7" sophomore with dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. However, "things changed," he said, the day he climbed a power pole and came in contact with a 36,000 volt line. "When I saw my legs smashed, I said 'just let me die.' My life was over in my mind." He said that he realized some time later that he was on his own and that he was the only one who could make something of his life.
What he learned from his experiences, he has passed on to others. His message was that it is important to dream-that's where everything starts; that it is important to write down dreams and to make goals of the dreams; to refer to the dreams and goals often; and to know that we can each accomplish anything. "You have the power in you. You are greatness," he said.
Ike Spencer, former University of Utah football star who is now an assistant principal at Hunter High School, told the kids on a video segment to "Make good choices no matter what others may do," and he underscored that message with a story about a childhood friend in Compton, Calif., who at age 15 was arrested for robbery and murder and has since spent nearly 30 years in prison.
A 20-year-old victim of spina bifida also spoke to the young audience. Although she was told at a young age that she would never walk, she has not only grown up to use her legs but to also water ski, swim, drive and more recently, bobsled, a sport in which she has excelled. "You can do what you put your mind to," she said. "I've never won a race I've entered," she continued, "but I've always felt like a winner."
One of the things that she is proudest of is the role she played in an Emmy-winning commercial where she was featured as having the courage to compete. "Whatever you do in life, do your best," she said. "I've got too many things to do in life to worry about what I can't do." She reiterated the challenge from Mr. Brinkman by saying, "You have the power in you to make life the best it can be."
Dan Clark, renowned motivational speaker and published author, said that in order to attain greatness, people need to "hang out with great people" and "be aware of the influences around us." He said that Curt Brinkman had been an inspiration to him when he was partially paralyzed playing football and is one of his heroes. Mr. Clark challenged the students to know who they are; to not let what they can't do interfere with what they can; and that by choosing positive support, each person can find the power within.
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asked the students to look within themselves for answers and to not make excuses when faced with adversity. "Reach out and help somebody else," he said. "Sometimes you're the only one who can make a difference."
San Rafael Junior High Principal Garth Johnson, who joined students from his school at the program, said, "It was a very upbeat, powerful and positive message for the kids." He added that it was refreshing to have a program of this magnitude brought to the rural areas of the state.