Confidence is a muscle that can be strengthened through exercise.
That includes exuding confidence even if you’re faking it, motivational speaker Jessie Funk told Manatee County School District high school freshmen Thursday.
“You choose whether you be confident or not,” Funk said.
Over the course of the day Thursday, Funk delivered her message — which included songs, personal stories and a strange drink concoction she dared a student to drink to demonstrate peer pressure — to more than 2,000 students, during a first of its kind event aimed at helping make sure this year’s freshmen have all the tools they need to succeed and graduate on time in 2020.
“It’s all the things young people need to know,” said Ro Mohamed, the district’s health and wellness coordinator, who helped organize the event.
The event was born out of a partnership with Drug Free Manatee, Greene said. Leaders from the organization came to her with some grant money they had won and asked her in a dream world what she would do with it. The Freshman Focus event was born out of that dream.
The event at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto marked the launch of Drug Free Manatee’s D-Fy program, and students were able to sign up for the new program.
High school students who join D-Fy pledge to be drug, tobacco and alcohol free. They are subject to random drug tests and as long as they pass, they’ll be able to earn discounts to local restaurants and stores. They’ll be eligible to attend special events and possibly be eligible for internships and jobs.
In addition to being able to sign up for D-Fy, students were able to visit more than 40 vendors’ booths that had information about community resources. Breakout sessions led by different experts focused on some of the specific challenges high school students face today, including the constant presence of social media platforms.
One of the most popular stops in the convention center? A photo booth where students could dress up in a cap and gown and post for a photo in front of a “Class of 2020” banner. The photos will be printed out and distributed to the students after the event, a physical reminder of what the students are looking for.
“A student said to me she felt like she had really graduated,” Greene said. “That was the whole purpose.”
Lakewood Ranch High School freshman Sasha Cain, 14, was able to put her confidence muscle to work when Funk called her up to the stage for a demonstration.
Cain took two separate walks down the stage, one where she looked timid, shy and scared and the other where she had the swagger of a champion. Funk used Cain’s two different walks to show students they control what they show the rest of the world. Afterward, Cain said she enjoyed the experience.
“At first, I was really nervous,” she said. “It kind of helped me.”