Motivational Speaker Tells Pleasantville Students
Their Dreams Are Within Reach
Feb 2, 2012.
By SARAH WATSON Staff Writer
PLEASANTVILLE - The question to the seventh-graders Wednesday
morning at Pleasantville Middle School was simple but poignant: Who in
here has a home?
Nearly all students in the room raised their hands. "I was that kid who
wouldn't raise his hand as a child," motivational speaker and former
professional indoor football player Duane West told the room.
West's message was part of a series of assemblies at Pleasantville Middle
School to mark the start of Black History Month. Among the lessons that
West, a Newark native, tried to impart to the students was what people
of color in previous generations lived through and to focus on their
dreams as a way to survive the struggles and challenges they face.
And as positive reinforcement and a special surprise to the students, two
former professional football plays, including former New York Giants wide
receiver Odessa Turner, were there to give autographs.
West told the students to ignore those who tell them that they are dumb
or worthless and to focus on the messages from people who believe in them.
"Be productive out there as a human being - make no excuses," he said.
"Every last one of you are winners. Every last one of you has the capability
to lead by example. But you have to live it." Michael Wiggins, 15, of
Pleasantville, said West's message struck a deep chord in him because of his own struggles. "I understand him because I lost my mom when I was young," Wiggins said. "He's saying to keep it moving forward, forget about the past, don't look back."
Lenae Grate, 14, of Pleasantville, said she learned a simple message. "Become something of yourself and to stay in school. Don't mess around with the wrong people," she said. Assistant Principal Jim Bonek said the idea for the talk was to help inspire and motivate students as well as kick off Black History Month.
"What I hope the kids understand is that anything is possible with hard work and determination," Bonek said. "It doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter what background you're from. If you just focus your determination, anybody can succeed." West said one of his goals for speaking to the students was to reach those who may be struggling with life and may feel like they are alone.
Eighth-grader Omar Wallace, 14, of Pleasantville, said he is an avid football player and had quit playing for a time because of injury. Hearing West's message, Wallace said, was a big inspiration.
"I have a hard life, but it's not as hard as his," Wallace said. "I have a single parent. We all play sports and I quit on myself before. ... After telling me not to quit, I'm determined now to stick in my sport and go somewhere."
The Augusta Chronicle
Ex-pro Football Player Preaches Against Bullying
By Kelsey Stein
Friday, Sept. 16, 2011
Nearly 400 pupils packed Bayvale Elementary School’s cafeteria
Friday afternoon as motivational speaker Duane West danced across
the stage, shouting words of encouragement.
Three Bayvale Elementary School pupils joined Duane West onstage for a
demonstration about bullying during an assembly Friday afternoon. “Leadership. Anti-bullying. Focus. Respect,” he said, with the
pupils echoing each word. West shared his life story, saying his dreams of going to college and playing football motivated him....
The Augusta Chronicle
Athlete Brings Message For Teachers
By Greg Gelpi
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008
For most of his childhood, Duane West lived in a crime-infested
New Jersey inner city where each morning he boiled water just
to have a warm shower.
But he learned to survive, persevere and overcome adversity. As
a high school freshman, he stood at 5-foot-2 and weighed 120
pounds, yet he earned a starting job on the football team and
later played professionally....