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National speaker helps AISD students choose a positive attitude, positive life

Recently, approximately 50 fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students at Aldine SD’s Alternative Education Placement Center (AEPO) attended a presentation given by Michael Chatman, one of the nation’s leading motivational youth speakers.

Chatman shared his message of self-confidence and personal responsibility. He spoke to the students from personal experience about living in a crime rampant community, family abuse, gang life, poor grades, poor attitude, drugs, and troubles with the law. He also discussed how a series of events, a belief in himself, and the genuine interest of others turned his life around at the age of 13.

“I had a teacher tell me that I wouldn’t amount to anything,” said Chatman. “At that point I decided to prove I would. I was also fortunate to have people like family, friends, and a high school coach around me who saw my potential and supported me in a variety of ways. I chose to be something better than I or others thought I could be.”

He cut his ties with the gang he was in, focused on his studies, and graduated from high school as Outstanding Student of the Year.

Chatman lettered in three sports and was named an All-American in football. He went on to study at Southwest Missouri State University where he graduated with athletic and academic honors in pre-law and public speaking.

Through the whole presentation, Chatman kept a sense of humor and spoke to the teenagers as opposed to speaking down to them. He also connected with his young audience through his ability to talk as teenagers on their level as they communicate today. His style of communicating was both thought-provoking and entertaining. Students, teachers and administrators alike laughed aloud and listened quietly.

Today, Chatman is a successful entrepreneur and dedicates a large part of his time helping young people realize their opportunities are not limited by their circumstances or their environment. His message to young people is for them to overcome their fears, to raise their standards, to develop a positive attitude, and to develop a sense of humor.
After Chatman told his story, it was time for questions and answers. Usually, this is an uncomfortable part of any presentation for both the presenter and the host, but not this day. And not with this presenter. Many students raised their hands to ask Chatman in-depth questions about the family abuse in his home, drugs, problems with the law, gangs, and his success. Several asked more than one or two questions making the 0 and A last for more than 20 minutes. It was obvious some part of his life story touched the students in some way or another.

At the end of the presentation students could be heard saying, “He was great,” and “He was cool and real.” Several wanted to know if he was coming back for another visit.

“This was one of the first times I saw the students really listening to everything the speaker had to say,” said Steve Hylander, assistant principal of AEPC. “It was obvious they connected with Michael. He was once one of them. I think this made it easier to see a possibility for change in their lives. Some part of his story affected each one of the students. You could see that by the questions they asked. It was great to see the students take such interest.”

AEPC is a highly-structured program for students who cannot handle the discipline guidelines on a traditional campus. For his work with young people, Chatman, who resides in Miami, has been recognized by the Miami Mayor’s Office for “Outstanding Community Service” and received the Miami Herald’s Silver Knight Award for community service. Michael Chatman’s presentation “It’s Your Choice” was made possible by Anheuser-Bush’s Consumer Awareness and Education, a community-based program that takes the personal responsibility message into the homes, schools and establishments.