Editor's Note: Sixteen year-old Stephen Nelson delivered an inspiring address to young achievers at his alma mater Marlie Mount Primary during a recent prize-giving ceremony held on the school’s ground. The ceremony was held in recognition of the school’s top performing students in each grade for the previous academic year.
Below is a briefly edited version of Nelson’s presentation which was the keynote address of the event.
Principal, Mr. Calvin Harris, vice principals, guidance counsellors, teachers, members of the administrative and ancillary staff, students and well-wishers; A pleasant morning to you all.
Well I must say Marlie Mount has evolved from the good old days when there was just the honour roll and a certificate at the end of the year. Now there is the extravagant “prize-giving ceremony”. Now some of you may be asking yourselves, “what would a 16 year-old boy know about the good old days?”
I am here this morning to celebrate with you and to congratulate you on your academic excellence. But I want you to know that it does not stop here. I believe that all of you here can make it through five years of high school because guess what?: A couple years ago, I was a student here just like you. I want to charge you children, to remain focused on your goal.
A goal is defined as an aim or a desired result and I am sure every student in here has a goal. By show of hands, who has said to themselves that they want to come first in their class this year? Or that they want to get plenty ‘stickies’ in their books?
There are 3 simple steps to achieving your goal:
• Be a go-getter
• Put God first
• Be alert and aware
Okay, so what is step one?
Being a go getter doesn’t necessarily mean you like working. No! Being a go-getter means knowing what you want and knowing the amount of work you have to put in to get what you want. Take for example Usain Bolt. Who would like to be a track star like Usain Bolt?
Well did you know that Usain Bolt doesn’t like to train? No, Usain likes to party and rave but guess what. He knows that it feels better to train hard and become the champion and then go to parties. Which one do you think feels better? Losing all the races and then going to the parties as a loser? Or training hard and becoming the champion and then going to the parties?
So you see, you have to be self-driven and go for what you want. And I believe that every single person in this room has greatness within them. You all have the potential to become champions.
If we are going to be go-getters, we cannot limit ourselves. The words “I can’t” should not be a part of your vocabulary. Whenever you see or hear them they should seem like they are another language. Let me tell you a story about limiting yourself...
During the summer, before I entered Grade 5, I decided that I wanted to enter the spelling bee. I made that decision in August but that was late because there were students who were training from June and July. My mom carried me to the late Rev. Glen Archer, (may his soul rest in peace), and owing to the fact that I started training so late he advised me to study the first round words. The spelling bee book had 3 rounds: the first round, the intermediate round and the final round so I followed my coach’s advice and in the weeks leading up to the parish finals I concentrated on the first round words. There came a time when I had been through those words so much, I felt sure that I was ready for the intermediate and final round words. But I didn’t study them, I still focused on the first round words.
The parish finals came around and there I was. A short, dark-skinned boy shaking like a leaf. You know what transpired that day? I placed second out of 60 odd competitors and remember that was just based off studying the first round words. Now imagine if I had not limited myself.
I want you all to learn from my mistake and no one in this room should ever limit themselves. And you see when you avoid doing that, the only thing that stands between you and greatness is yourself.
It was Dr. Seus who said “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose”.
On to Step Two now: Put God First
You cannot expect to continuously be successful if you don’t give thanks to the big guy up stairs. If it’s even to whisper a quick thank you for what he has done or asking him for help. You should ensure that Jesus Christ is the centre of your endeavours and remember Matthew 6:33 which says, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”.
God’s word says we should obey our parents so that is also a part of putting God first. How many times mommy and daddy say it’s time to go to bed but you don’t move because you want to finish watching Phineas and Ferb or Sponge Bob or Wrestling, especially Monday Night Raw. We should also be obedient to our elders and teachers because they have been put in authoritative positions for a reason. They are there to offer guidance to us and they make the task of achieving our goals much easier.
Very recently I had saved some money and I planned to buy a phone. I told my mom that I intended to buy a second-hand phone that I liked from a phone repair shop. You’re gonna have the phone man with the ‘cheaper’ deal. Mom didn’t agree and she advised me to a buy a phone from a Digicel or a Lime (now FLOW) store. She said, “I not telling you what to do enuh, because it’s your money but I wouldn’t buy that second hand phone”.
Anyway I had my own way and I bought the phone. About a month or so after can u guess what happened? The phone started to malfunction and then it just went completely. But thankfully, my mother who I love soooooo much got me a phone in the next week. But I don’t think everyone will be lucky like me so just be obedient. Because the consequences may be worse in your case and like Justin Bieber it will be too late for you to say sorry.
There is this story about this Jamaican pastor who went to visit a sick church sister in the hospital. She was a little old lady and as he sat by her bed he saw a bowl of peanuts on her bedside table. As he spoke with his church sister he began to snack on the peanuts. And you know we are, if we put one in our mouth it’s hard to not eat anymore. So by the end of the visit the pastor had ate all of the peanuts. He apologized saying, “I’m sorry Sister Amy, I finished all your peanuts.” Sister Amy replied, “It’s Okay Pastor, I already sucked off the chocolate from them”.
The moral behind this story and my third and final point is Be Alert and Aware of your surroundings. It turns out the peanuts were like M&M’s or ping pong so they came covered with chocolate. Now if pastor had looked closely I am sure he would’ve seen some chocolate on at least one of the peanuts. Sister Amy’s jaw is not as strong as yours and mine who can get all of the chocolate from the peanut so chocolate must have been left on the nuts.
We will come upon situations where there is more than one direction for us to proceed in. It is in these situations that we have to use our awareness of our surroundings to make the right decision.
As I close, I know that we are all humans and we will make mistakes but I want you to know that it is how we rebound from these mistakes that defines who we really are. Learning from a mistake and defeating that particular obstacle is the greatest feeling of fulfilment a man can experience.
So remember be a go-getter, put God first and stay alert.
Wherever you go remember this quote, ‘When everyone is sitting, stand; when everyone is standing, stand out; and when everyone is standing out, be outstanding’.