North Royalton Middle School (NRMS) held their annual Middle Level Leadership Conference on January 22 with a focus on how to handle the unexpected things that happen in life. The keynote speaker for the conference gave a speech he calls “Life. Curveballs. Home Runs.” The speaker, Dee Hankins, is a nationally acclaimed inspirational youth speaker who encourages thousands of students each year to be resilient both in and out of the classroom.
His talk focused on his life story of being in foster care for his entire childhood. He thought no one cared about him until a college sponsorship program gave him a call. Their persistence in pursuing him gave him confidence that there were people in the world who cared. He went on to graduate from California State University with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. Now, his clientele includes CADA, NASC, Jostens, The Department of Children and Family Services and more.
Hankins mission is to show every student that they have a chance at success no matter their background. His talk aimed to encourage students to be resilient by changing their views of failure. Hankins brought these points home with his own life experiences, including his daughter battling cancer. The overall piece of advice for students was that life throws curveballs, but even this pitch can be hit for a home run.
The conference began with registration at 10 a.m., facilitated by the NRMS Student Council and Honor Society students and advisors. NRMS Principal Jeff Cicerchi then welcomed all of the schools in attendance and introduced Grady Bokoch and Neerja Shah who introduced Hankins to give his keynote address. Neerja said, “I truly enjoyed Dee Hankins and the way he used his life story to teach us about resilience. His motto, ‘Life. Curveballs. Home runs’ really made me feel like I am capable to do more than I ever imagined. Dee's belief in us will continue to push me, as well as my classmates, to never give up because ‘even curveballs can be hit into home runs.’"
The schools who attended along with NRMS were: Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School, Memorial Junior High-South Euclid, Brunswick Willetts, Mayfield Middle School, Amherst Middle School, Berea-Midpark Middle School, Cloverleaf Middle School, Nordonia Middle School, Kimpton Middle School (Stow/Munroe Falls), Hudson Middle School, Independence Middle School, Shiloh Middle School, Harmon Middle School (Aurora), and Hillside Middle School.
After Hankins spoke in the morning, the students had lunch, and were given school tours. The speaking portion then resumed with Hankins facilitating leadership development and group networking sessions. Assistant Principal Erin Calabrese gave the closing remarks to end the leadership conference.