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Get High on Life

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / September 29, 1998

This past Tuesday, I was invited to speak to some of the freshman classes at East St. John High School. The invitation was extended to me by Mrs.LaRue Speights. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have had such anopportunity.

I was told that this year the freshman class has a total of 620 graduates.

If statistics of the past hold true, only 300 of these young people will graduate. That’s right. Only one-half of all freshmen that enter Louisianapublic schools hang around to graduate. The other half fall by the wayside.Tuesday, I spoke to six different classes that included about 260 to 300 freshmen. My message was simple and to the point. I first told them that Iwas excited about the chance to spend a day at their school. I told themthat I loved them, which seemed to confuse a few of them. I shared aboutthe large percentage of ninth-graders that don’t earn a high school diploma. I also shared that the majority of people who graduate never takefull advantage of the educational opportunities that are available to them.

Most of you who will graduate will have done just enough to get by. Tothese, I want to remind you that the only person you cheat is yourself.

I challenged the girls to respect themselves and not let any boy take advantage of them. I dared the boys not to be wimps, but act like men – tobe real and to be genuine. I encouraged everyone to be givers instead oftakers. “The givers in this world are the happiest people,” I said. “Thereason for this is because that’s the way God made us.”Givers are happy. They are free. They feel good about themselves. Takersare selfish and into themselves and are miserable.

I then asked them if I could be honest with them. They responded with a”yes.” “Do you know the reputation of this school?” I asked. “People referto this school as a jungle.” “That’s what it is!” one girl said. Some peoplelaughed and agreed. “You realize that a jungle is only as bad as what’s init,” I said. “You, the students, make up the school.” “Can you imagine,” Iasked, “what positive influence 620 young people could make, not only in this school, but also in this community?” I continued, “You realize that your generation is referred to as Generation X. In other words, a lost generation. Society has all but given up on you.What would you say if you decided, together, to be an extreme generation? Yes, extreme – being different – making a positive impact on your school as you strive to be the best that you can be.””If it were possible to get 600 T-shirts in your school colors, with a big Generation Xtreme on the front and a message on the back that would read: ‘Making a radical, positive influence in our school and community,’ would you wear it?” I asked. About 95 percent said they would. “If you wore theshirts to school once a week, and wore them when you went shopping in the community, do you think that would make an impact?” I asked. Mostagreed that it would.

With the help of some people, and the permission of Mrs. Debbie Schum, Iwould like to see this happen. I guarantee that it would make a difference.If you would like to help with the purchase of the T-shirts, please give me a call at 652-8477. Remember, it’s more blessed to give than to receive.A special thanks to Mrs. Speights and the teachers who allowed me theopportunity to spend a day with some very special young people.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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