Dozens of Floyd, Elida, Grady and House junior high and high school students piled into the gym at Floyd Municipal Schools Monday afternoon to hear about the dangers of substance abuse and the importance of believing in dreams.
“We really need to stop teaching kids to wish and start teaching them to dream,” motivational youth speaker Gabe Salazar told his audience Monday afternoon. “I believe that your dream can come true when you dream with clarity, with detail.”
Salazar was visiting local school districts as part of Red Ribbon Week, which promotes drug-free and bully-free awareness.
Salazar asked the youth in the bleachers to raise their hands if they had a dream, then he selected individuals to say what their dream was. He had one Elida student sing a rap song after she said she wanted to be a rapper.
Professions ranged from a game designer/writer to a rancher to a teacher. At Portales Junior High School, where Salazar spoke Monday morning, students yelled out numerous professions, such as a missionary in Russia, a doctor and a heppetologist, which is someone who studies lizards.
“I don’t know anyone who dreams of failure,” Salazar told Portales teenagers Monday morning. “And let me tell you, you were born to succeed. You were born to be a champion. And you can be.”
Salazar talked to students about his mother being a teen mom, his father abandoning them, and his sister being addicted to methamphetamine for years.
Salazar told his audience he dealt with abandonment issues and anger toward his father, and was involved in gang activity as a teenager.
“The thing that really helped me break the cycle was mentors,” Salazar said after his morning presentation. “Surrounding yourself with positive influences, who carry themselves in a positive way makes a difference. So mentors are really important.”
Salazar has been a mentor to dozens of teenagers across the nation, traveling to 150 junior high and high schools each year.
He told his Portales and Floyd audiences stories about a teenage mother at one of his presentations changing her mind about killing herself and her child and a teenage boy changing his mind about stabbing another student for gang initiation.
“If I can sum up what I do in one word, it would be ‘hope,’” Salazar said. “That’s really what these kids need is someone to give them hope and tell them they can succeed, because they hear so much negative and are told all the time that they can’t.”
Students felt Salazar delivered a strong message.
“It makes you realize you can do anything you put your mind to if you want to and your past doesn’t define your future,” Floyd senior Larkin Lindsey said.
“His life was definitely different from mine. When I hear about people with those kinds of lives, it makes me feel sad for them,” Elida senior Kaylee Tibb said. “Him and some other speakers I’ve listened to have inspired me to minister to kids with problems instead of just pass them by.”