Speaker Series Encourages Students to Make Better Choices
At Gordon Odyssey Academy (GOA) making better decisions is a skill we attempt to instill in our students daily. The utilization of guest speakers helps reinforce this by allowing students to hear first- hand accounts of those whose decisions have negatively impacted their lives. We began our series with radio personality, Brandy “Beasy Baybie” Henshaw, of WHXT Hot 103.9. She candidly discussed her life: being a teenage mother, being homeless as a teen, in foster care, group homes, juvenile facilities, Prisons and jails. She explains how her choices led her to a life of crime and facing more than 25 years in prison. A convicted felon, she was given an opportunity to change and better her life and she’s done just that. She’s now a published author (“That Night, I Died”), beloved radio and television host, motivational speaker, and mother of four, and is paying it forward daily.The Insiders program, sponsored by the Department of Juvenile Justice, for 26 years has allowed juveniles to share their stories with students around the state. Mr. Ted Blanding and his colleague, brought two young men to GOA, who shared what activities caused them to be sent to DJJ for several years. They shared what daily life at DJJ is like and how they cannot control their time. The gentleman also explained how they both are doing extremely well, have earned their high school equivalent diploma, and are set to be released soon – which is why they are able to travel the state to encourage other youth. GOA students were so intrigued by the young men’s stories that they continued to talk with them even after their lunch block began; they ate and chatted. DJJ staff also walked around or sat with several students to explain how making the right decisions could keep them out of DJJ. Thank you to Dr. Sara Pearson, Coordinator of Middle School Special Services, for organizing the DJJ Insiders’ visit.
Similar to DJJ, the South Carolina Department of Corrections sponsors Operation Get Smart, is a crime prevention/public awareness program. Get Smart consists of adult inmates who get a chance to share their stories with students and speak vividly about how being with the wrong crowd, making poor choices, and/or being in the wrong place, has completely changed the trajectory of their lives. During a recent visit, GOA students listened and were allowed to ask questions of the inmates. What’s most engaging is that the inmates share the truth of what life is like in prison; it is not glamorous as it is often portrayed in the movies, media, or music.
Assistant Public Defender, Adrian Peguese, hosted a panel discussion for our GOA students. The SC Protecting Our Youth panel consisted of DJJ representatives, a judge, and an attorney. They shared insight with students of what they see daily and explained how they can make good choices that will positively impact their lives. Students were allowed to ask questions of the public servants.
The combination of these speakers’ testimonies have equipped students with real life scenarios to avoid and given them the necessary tools to make sound decisions that will positively impact their lives for years to come.