Story by Damon Shields. Photo from Collegiate Media Student.
DECEMBER 8, 2014: The Live Sonima Tour took place at Collegiate Academy in a room filled with middle school students from Blow Pierce
and Woodridge, and included 9-12 graders who attended various academies at Collegiate. The Sonima Tour comes to schools to provide them with the tools needed to live a successful life despite the challenges faced of an uncertain future.
As students filled the auditorium, silence was amongst the place as students sat quietly listening to Stedman Graham speak about character identity, encouraging us to focus on our education and the importance of making positive choices. Stedman Graham is an educator, author, businessman, and speaker. He is known as the life partner of media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Along with Stedman Graham, singer and songwriter Caroline Jones performed several songs with her acoustic guitar, piano, banjo harmonica playing. Both actively worked the room discussing the repeated theme of how each individual holds the power to their own success or failure, that knowing who you are is the first step in self-actualization and self-leadership.
Students were on their feet standing and cheering when he allowed several volunteers to come on stage and participate in a discussion about "What happens when a person doesn't know who they are?" There were many responses to this question, but what resonated with me the most was what he said to the audience
afterwards. “Without a plan you are literally walking through life blindfolded, no roadmap to where you are going. It’s like you are following someone’s dreams other than your own and you are not aware of who you are and your purpose in life.” With so many athletes in the room including myself, he said something that many of us had heard a million times, but this time it seemed as if his words struck a chord like no other. He said that there is more to life than just being a professional athlete. So many youth live their whole life wanting what they see on TV or in magazines—professional athletes having the money, cars, and fame—but what it all boils down to is what happens if that doesn’t pan out and you don’t make it to the pros? What then? He spoke about the “success process” of not only having a Plan B but a Plan C as well.
I never focused on the Plan C before…that being well rounded opens more opportunities than just sports. As the performance came to a close, being well rounded remained on my mind. Although I do not like art, singing in music class or going to Spanish, I realized that I must embrace the exposure to all aspects of those subjects and not just reading, math, history, and science, but look at how art and humanities can open opportunities for the future as well. I learned that I must make it happen!
Damon Shields and Jermaine Gibbs are 8th grade scholars at Friendship Woodridge Academy.