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Performers Encourage Freshmen to Find Their Genius

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While sophomores and juniors labored over the PSAT, the freshman class made a series of rotations to fill their morning. In one session, they were trained in CPR. In another, they were able to ask questions of a panel of seniors, with a discussion focused on student success. In the third session, freshmen were treated to a pair of motivational performers who encouraged them to find their unique talents and share them with the world.

Multilingual comedian David Edward Garcia has traveled the world for over a decade speaking at schools. He believes that it is important to connect on a closer level too, so after a few years of travel he got certified to teach French and worked at an Austin school. He now teaches at Grisham Middle School, and he continues to travel for speaking engagements.

“When I’m on the road, I’m a star,” Mr. Garcia said. “They want me to be a star, talk about me, be big. At Grisham, I’m there to serve the kids. So on the road it’s more about me and my gift and ‘you can do this too.’ At Grisham, it’s all about the kids and their gift, and every day that gets cultivated a little bit.”

Mr. Garcia acknowledges that teaching is challenging, but he revels in the rewards of the job.

“It’s like going to be with your family every day,” he said, “ and just like with any family, there’s ups, there’s downs, there’s attitudes, there’s conflicts, but there’s also resolution, and it makes us stronger. So every day, we just get a little stronger as a family.”

The freshman audience responded warmly to Mr. Garcia, laughing at his self-deprecating humor and taking in his encouragement.

“His message is so good because it is so positive,” Lucia Santaolalla ‘22 said. “It gives us strength for the future.”

Mr. Garcia’s talk was followed by a performance from award-winning Austin musician Saul Paul. Mr. Paul has been featured on America’s Got Talent, has given two Ted Talks, and performed at ACL this month. Sprinkled throughout his musical selections were stories of his troubled youth and the complete turnaround he experienced after being convicted of four felonies by the age of 19.

“I figured out that life is the sum total of your choices,” Mr. Paul said. “I decided to make different choices and live a different life.”

Inviting student participation, Mr. Paul created a freestyle rap from words suggested by the audience. Students played guitar and beat-boxed while he recorded their audio tracks to a loop that was incorporated into the song. The full audience got into the act with a call-and-response chorus and a classic bleacher wave.

Like Mr. Garcia, Mr. Paul encouraged students to find their own unique strengths.

“Understand that you have natural resources in you,” Mr. Paul said. “Just like you have to find oil and refine it, you have to find your genius inside yourself and refine that.”

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