Park Rapids Area High School graduate and motivational speaker Travis Guida delivered a encouraging message to students the first day of school.
Representing the Class of '97 and father of seven children, Guida said he has a "vested interest in this specific high school" and wants Park Rapids to be the best possible high school it can be.
He encouraged students to get involved and participate in activities, support one another and build trust amongst classmates.
Principal Jeff Johnson brought Guida in to speak to high school students on the first day as a way to help incorporate a strong school culture in Park Rapids.
Guida asked the students, "What does that mean?"
First, he said, think about what a strong culture is not. What are some things to get rid of in this school that might stand in the way of a strong culture. There's negative attitudes and negative beliefs towards one another and toward school in general. Look at the school as a team, Guida said as an example.
"What makes a group of people a team is not just that they're there and present. What makes this student body potentially a team is not that you're just sitting in here it's how well you can learn to trust each other."
There are different kinds of belief systems and different things about us, and it's important to accept other people's beliefs.
Guida went on to explain that sometimes in life things appear pretty easy, but in reality we all face challenges. He told the high school students to think about four objectives as it relates to overcoming challenges in your own life.
Believe in yourself. "It has to start with that. If you don't have any belief in yourself it's going to be a tough road for you to face those challenges. Believe in that power inside because every single one of you have that power. You have to believe it.
Be humble and ask for help. "When you're facing these challenges you are not alone."
Learn to work together as part of a team. Successful team has strong communication, a shared vision, and can't have any unresolved conflict.
Guida shared, we see three types of students at a typical high school.
There are the students who make it happen. These are the students involved in football, basketball, the fine arts, choir, band, etc. Look at the yearbook and these are the students in group photos for multiple activities. They're involved. It's a really important part of this positive school culture to be involved.
The second type of student is the kind of student who watches things happen. The school district and the community invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in these great places to sit. They want people to come and watch whatever activity there is. "Even if you're not involved in cross country you have friends that are involved, go and support the cross country team. Go support the volleyball team. Go support the wrestling team. Be involved that way, but every once in awhile we want you to hop out on that field and make sure you can get in the picture too," Guida explained.
The last kind of person that attends Park Rapids Area High School is the kind of person that says "what happened?" "They're not here right now. They're the kind of students that won't take this high school thing very seriously. They're going to miss a lot of school. They're not going to be here."
Guida did an exercise with a number of students on stage holding signs indicating a particular job. These ranged from doctor to soldier to janitor to teacher to farmer to president. Students in the auditorium were asked to put the jobs in order from most important to least important. After shuffling the placement a number of times the students could not come to a consensus.
Guida explained it's human nature for people to come to judgement about certain types of jobs. He compared these jobs to the different groups of students in high school. Every school has the stereotypical cliques - the nerds, jocks, goody two shoes, drama kids, band geeks, goth, etc.
The group or stereotype that exists isn't necessarily a bad thing. People who like being in band are going to associate with other people who are in band. The bottom line is, as Guida explained, a lot of those groups occur because the students involved share similar interests.
Accept people for who they are instead of thinking your group is more important than any other group.
Guida challenged the students to acknowledge the fact that there are all kinds of groups that exist here, and those groups aren't necessarily bad. He encouraged them to get away from having to judge who is most important and who is least important. Instead, let's create a circle with no most important or no least important.
The groups are still going to exist but what we can do is welcome other people into our groups. That's a great message at any age.