HOISINGTON — With a great ability to connect with teenagers, motivational speaker Mike Donahue spoke to Hoisington High School students on Monday and urged the students to stop self-medicating with alcohol, drugs and negative behavior, and to begin treating the pain underneath the mask.
As the child of abusive and neglectful parents, Donahue well understands using addictions to cover the emotional pain, and the steps to take to begin reaching for the top shelf. As a teen, his "normal" was the bottom shelf.
"You have to make efforts," the speaker said.
Presenting the information in a funny and interesting, yet touching way, he told the students, "Reinvent your normal." If your normal is self-medicating, he said, begin making choices to confront the issues that are causing that.
"Pain will be your best friend," he told the student. Pain is an indication that there is a problem that needs to be treated.
"Get back up if you fall," he said. Not only was his message about self-respect, it was also about respecting others.
"Words matter," he said. "Words leave marks."
Donahue has spoken to over one million high school students, and was brought to HHS by Family Careers and Community Leaders of America and the student council as a part of USD 431’s dedication to character education in the high school.
After an assembly with the student body, Donahue spoke to 50 student leaders in the school about the social power the "in" crowd has to control the atmosphere of a high school.
"Every single day, there is a pocket of students who set the rules," Donahue said. "Those rules aren’t fair.
"Are you comfortable with the school begin mean?" he asked. "Be true to you."
Talk to the lonely student and sit by them at lunch. Don’t bully, he said. "With little things you can change the hallways of this school."
"Be true to yourself," he said. It won’t be easy though. "You will pay a price socially for going against the flow, but you will gain self-respect."
The presentation was well-received by both students and faculty. Students said before the assembly they didn’t want to go, but afterward, liked it a lot. "He made it fun," they said.
The FCCLA Club heard Donahue speak at the organization’s district conference where Donahue was the keynote speaker. Sponsor Karla Reisner said that the students liked Donahue’s speech so much that they got in touch with him to invite him to Hoisington.
Donahue has written a book, "reinventing my normal" and has a website www.reinventmynormal.com.