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ESC kicks off school year with internationally known motivational speaker Mark C. Perna

Speaker Mark C. Perna with CCESC superintendent and coordinator of the event, Anna Marie Vaughn. (Submitted photo)

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, county educators, employers and business professionals kicked off the start of another school year with internationally recognized motivational speaker Mark C. Perna, an expert on the millennial and Z generations and award winning author of the book “Answering Why: Unleashing Passion, Purpose, and Performance in Younger Generations.” The message was centered on how to connect with the younger generation in a changing world. Around 500 people were in attendance in the Performing Arts Center at Crestview High School including those from the Columbiana County Educational Service Center (organizer of the event), Crestview, East Palestine, Leetonia, Lisbon, Southern Local and Wellsville, all focused on every word.

Kim Gilbert, special education director and elementary vice principal at Crestview, said, “This was one of the most influential opening days I have ever attended. I feel inspired. I got chills a few times. I left with a feeling of renewed purpose.”

Perna’s message was about connecting with students. He expressed the importance for educators and employers to get young people to want something in order to see their purpose. Developing human connection and seeing them right where they are is vital to the process of getting them to move forward. Perna referenced the need for this generation to feel the “why” in what they are doing before they can process completing the task. “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?” This was one of Perna’s key messages in explaining the generation’s need to see the relevance in what they are doing and allowing educators and employers to, then, see students in a new light.

In addition, focusing on career options for students after high school was a central focus in Perna’s message. “We hear the phrase, ‘college and career ready’. Almost no one hears the word “and” in that phrase. It should be, make them “career” ready. Why with so many pathways to success in America, why do we put only one word in that phrase? College. The phrase says it’s the only way to success, which is simply not true,” said Perna. He followed this up with statistical figures on success rates of college students saying that, “50% of college students believe their major will lead to a good job. Then why are you there? Because they were told they should be,” he said. Seeing students where they are is vital to their success no matter which pathway they choose.

Options including college, trade schools, workforce entry, military, etc. should be embraced for all. Gilbert took notice of this message and said, “I loved the quote he used, ‘the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’ That all students have a unique purpose. A light at the end of the tunnel, and as educators we get the privilege of helping them find that.”

Perna spoke of a 24 year old employee at John Deere. A 4.0 student with an assumed pathway to college that decided her junior year to take a welding class. Upon graduation, she was hired at John Deere as a welder. After year one, she took advantage of the company’s offering to pay the majority of its employee’s college tuition, received a 4 year degree, and is on track to reach management level status with the company, and has zero college debt. This was possible because the company looked at her potential rather than just her degree status when hiring. “How many of us would talk a 4.0 student out of a welding class? How many would talk a 2.0 student out of going to college simply because both of these examples are ‘those students’. It doesn’t matter where you start. It only matters where you end. If we can show them their purpose, they will get there,” said Perna.

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