Former Arena Football League Player

       Teaches Respect In Hopatcong

 

                                                                                                                                                       Oct 08, 2014 6:36 PM EDT

                                                                                                                                                              By JOE CARLSON
                                                                                                                                                          jcarlson@njherald.com

 

 

 

                                                                Duane West Speaks To Students 

                                                                         At Hopatcong High School

 

 

                                                                                                    HOPATCONG -- Hopatcong High School kicked off its "Week of                                                                                                         Respect" Friday with an assembly featuring a former professional                                                                                                     athlete who encouraged the students to follow their dreams and                                                                                                       believe in themselves no matter what.

 

                                                                                                    "I want these kids to be resilient, to never give up, not to lose                                                                                                         hope and to use their experiences in life as a pathway to                                                                                                                 success," said Duane West, a motivational speaker and former                                                                                                         player in the Arena Football League.

 

                                                                                                    Speaking for about 45 minutes, West used everything in his                                                                                                             public speaking arsenal to engage the crowd of more than 500                                                                                                         students.

 

                                                                                                    The best way to describe West's time at Hopatcong is that he was                                                                                                     Michael Winslow, the actor from "Police Academy," who makes                                                                                                         funny sounds with his mouth; Frank Caliendo, an impressionist;

                                                                                                    and the late Chris Farley, a "Saturday Night Live" performer who                                                                                                       specialized in physical comedy -- all wrapped into one.

 

                                                                                                    Throughout the assembly, West pulled students out of the crowd,

                                                                                                    involved teachers in trying to make points and even did an                                                                                                               impression of Lou Benfatti, the high school's principal.

 

"I leave everything out there. I want to make sure everything has an impact," West said after his speech.  West told the group how he grew up in a single-parent home with no hot water, having to boil two pots of water every morning and carry them up a flight of stairs just to clean himself.

 

"I can still feel the scalding water splashing on my hands as I tell you this story," he said.  His mother, West said, always made sure he knew he was going to go to college.  "There was never any other option," he said. "She made sure I knew that."

 

West graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in psychology, fulfilling his mother's wish that he graduate.  But coming from a poor home in Irvington wasn't the only roadblock West encountered.  In 1996, while in a hotel room a few days before he was scheduled to speak with a group of kids at a school, West slipped and fell in the bathroom, temporarily paralyzing him.  He was taken to a trauma center where he began to regain feeling and within 24 hours he was able to walk again.

 

"I told my doctor that I needed to be at that school the next day to talk to the kids. He told me I could in the future, but not the next day. I needed to do it. I could barely walk, but I made it there," he said.  Two years later, at the age of 31, West made his professional football debut with the Florida Bobcats of the Arena League.  Now, 49, West has appeared on many television programs including "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "The Maury Povich Show."  "The point of the assembly was to engage all the students of the high school as we kick off our ‘Week of Respect'," Benfatti said. "I think we accomplished that."

 

According to the state Department of Education, the "Week of Respect" is required in schools to "recognize the importance of character education. (Schools) are required to observe the week by providing age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing harassment, intimidation or bullying."

 

In addition to the assembly on Friday, the high school will participate by having students sign a pledge to respect others and have a "Mix It Up" day where students have to sit with new people at lunch, among other things.

 

In Stillwater, all students and staff will also be wearing blue today for World Day of Bullying Prevention and will end the week with "Highlight Respect Day," with everyone wearing neon colors.

Other schools are also planning activities to observe the "Week of Respect."

 Lewis Benfatti, Principal at Hopatcogn High School.  Mr. Benfatti is also a former New

York Jets pro football player (defensive lineman).  Outstanding educational leader.

 

Former Arena Football

League Player

Teaches Respect In

Hopatcong

 

Oct 08, 2014 6:36 PM EDT

By JOE CARLSON
jcarlson@njherald.com

 

Duane West Speaks To Students 

At Hopatcong High School

 

 

HOPATCONG -- Hopatcong High School kicked off its "Week of Respect" Friday with an assembly featuring a former professional athlete who encouraged the students to follow their dreams and believe in themselves no matter what.

 

"I want these kids to be resilient, to never give up, not to lose hope and to use their experiences in life as a pathway to success," said Duane West, a motivational speaker and former player in the Arena Football League.

 

Speaking for about 45 minutes, West used everything in his public speaking arsenal to engage the crowd of more than 500 students.

 

The best way to describe West's time at Hopatcong is that he was Michael Winslow, the actor from "Police Academy," who makes funny sounds with his mouth; Frank Caliendo, an impressionist; and the late Chris Farley, a "Saturday Night Live" performer who

 

Throughout the assembly, West pulled students out of the crowd, involved teachers in trying to make points and even did an                 impression of Lou Benfatti, the high school's principal.

 

"I leave everything out there. I want to make sure everything has an impact," West said after his speech.  West told the group how he grew up in a single-parent home with no hot water, having to boil two pots of water every morning and carry them up a flight of stairs just to clean himself.

 

"I can still feel the scalding water splashing on my hands as I tell you this story," he said.  His mother, West said, always made sure he knew he was going to go to college.  "There was never any other option," he said. "She made sure I knew that."

 

West graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in psychology, fulfilling his mother's wish that he graduate.  But coming from a poor home in Irvington wasn't the only roadblock West encountered.  In 1996, while in a hotel room a few days before he was scheduled to speak with a group of kids at a school, West slipped and fell in the bathroom, temporarily paralyzing him.  He was taken to a trauma center where he began to regain feeling and within 24 hours he was able to walk again.

 

"I told my doctor that I needed to be at that school the next day to talk to the kids. He told me I could in the future, but not the next day. I needed to do it. I could barely walk, but I made it there," he said.  Two years later, at the age of 31, West made his professional football debut with the Florida Bobcats of the Arena League.  Now, 49, West has appeared on many television programs including "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "The Maury Povich Show."  "The point of the assembly was to engage all the students of the high school as we kick off our ‘Week of Respect'," Benfatti said. "I think we accomplished that."

 

According to the state Department of Education, the "Week of Respect" is required in schools to "recognize the importance of character education. (Schools) are required to observe the week by providing age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing harassment, intimidation or bullying."

 

In addition to the assembly on Friday, the high school will participate by having students sign a pledge to respect others and have a "Mix It Up" day where students have to sit with new people at lunch, among other things.

 

In Stillwater, all students and staff will also be wearing blue today for World Day of Bullying Prevention and will end the week with "Highlight Respect Day," with everyone wearing neon colors.

 

 

Other schools are also planning activities to observe the "Week of Respect."