Jeff Yalden Helps to Heal Hearts at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Indiana

On January 31, 2013, Youth Motivational Speaker Jeff Yalden and I visited Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Indiana. With 20 years of experience speaking in high school assemblies, Jeff has an incredible ability to connect with students, parents, administrators and communities. When he received the phone call inviting him to Wawasee High School, he knew immediately that this would be a visit unlike any other. You see, Wawasee High School had experienced the devastating loss of two teens, Kalee and KC, to suicide in a very short period of time. Everyone was left searching for answers.

Don Harman, the principal of Wawasee High School asked Jeff to come help heal hearts and inspire hope.

Jeff and Don Harman, principal of Wawasee High School

Jeff and Don Harman, principal of Wawasee High School

Wawasee students began reaching out to Jeff on Twitter and Facebook in the days leading up to his visit, trusting that his message would help to guide them on how to move forward and embrace life. That morning during the school assembly, Jeff spoke for nearly two hours. You could have heard a pin drop in the gymnasium, as he shared his heart with theirs.

Jeff speaks to Wawasee High School

Jeff speaks to Wawasee High School

After the assembly, many students and teachers visited with Jeff and thanked him for touching their hearts so deeply. Jeff’s visit not only prompted healing, but he also helped to open doors of communication for several students in particular who were really struggling. We were able to help connect them with school counselors and they realized that they are not alone. The entire visit from the moment we arrived in the morning until we left late at night was life changing for many. In fact, there is really no way to even begin to adequately describe how deeply Jeff and I were touched as well by our visit to Wawawee.

Jeff visits with students after the assembly

Jeff visits with students and teachers after the assembly

Jeff visits with students after the assembly

Jeff visits with students after the assembly

After the assembly, we were invited to tour some of the incredible facilities that Wawasee has to offer to their students. We really enjoyed meeting these awesome boys in the Career Technical Education building as we checked out their auto mechanics shop.

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A great group of guys in the auto mechanics shop

Next, we stopped by the impressive weight room where student athletes were working out…

 

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Students in the weight room at Wawasee

During lunch, Jeff and I set up in the cafeteria so students could get their Jeff Yalden T-Shirts, posters or simply spend a few minutes chatting with him.

Jeff and I in Wawasee

Jeff and I in Wawasee

Jeff visits with students in the cafeteria at Wawasee

Jeff chats with students about his tattoos in the cafeteria.

Jeff visits with students in the cafeteria at Wawasee

Jeff connects in the cafeteria at Wawasee

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Jeff and students in the cafeteria at Wawasee

Jeff visits with students in the cafeteria at Wawasee

Jeff and Bryce connect in the cafeteria at Wawasee.

During his morning assembly, Jeff had connected with a student named Bryce. At lunchtime, Bryce stopped by to visit with us and he and Jeff spent some time talking about how the message had touched his heart. Personally, I was incredibly impressed with Bryce and how openly he shared his feelings. As a mom of 5, I know that teens are not always forthcoming with their emotions. Bryce is a very mature young man and his parents should be very proud of him. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with him via Facebook on a few occasions since our visit and I wish him all the best as he chases his dreams.

Jeff and Bryce

Jeff and Bryce

I wish I had a better photo of Pashma, the student with the camera in a couple of the photos above. Pashma is a journalism student who spent hours that day photographing and documenting Jeff’s visit. In fact, that afternoon, he and a fellow student sat down with Jeff and I for nearly and hour as he interviewed Jeff for the school newspaper. Pashma is a fantastic young man. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him that day. His passion and enthusiasm are impressive and refreshing. I look forward to reading his recap of our visit.

Almost immediately after our flight landed in Chicago the night before, one student named Sammi contacted us privately via Twitter. She was a close friend of one of the students who had taken his own life. Sammi was super sweet as she requested that Jeff meet separately with a group of approximately 20 friends. Many of them were understandably brokenhearted and struggling with how to even begin to move on. Mr. Harman helped to coordinate a special gathering that afternoon with those amazing teens. Together with Jeff, they found hope, learned to forgive and gave themselves permission to smile. It was an indescribably beautiful moment in time.

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Jeff with some of KC’s friends

That evening, nearly 800 people attended the Parent Program as Jeff shared his message about “The 3 R’s: Respect, Responsibility and Relationships”.

Jeff speaks to Wawasee parents

Jeff speaks to Wawasee parents

Sharing his sometimes humorous and other times heartbreaking stories from his own past, Jeff cuts to the core of the issues that teens and parents are facing today. Jeff truly has a gift for touching hearts and changing lives. We received countless messages after that assembly from parents who were grateful for his no-nonsense, honest advice. In fact, nearly a month later, we are still hearing from various members of the Wawasee community daily.

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Wawasee parents listening to Jeff

There was one moment that evening that will forever be etched in our minds. While sharing with the audience, Jeff realized that KC’s dad Chris was sitting in the front row.  Time seemed to stand still as they embraced, and I don’t believe that there was a dry eye in the gymnasium. Since that time, Jeff and I have developed a wonderful friendship with Chris. We’ve chatted on the phone and we frequently connect on Twitter. He will forever hold a special place in our hearts and I wish that we had words to even begin to lessen his unimaginable pain. Chris, please know that you are a blessing to all of KC’s friends and that his memory will live with them always.

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Jeff and Chris share a healing hug

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Jeff and Chris

After the assembly, Jeff was also honored and touched to meet Kalee’s parents. Our hearts go out to you and your family and may the memories of your beautiful girl help to brighten your darkest of days. We send you all the love in the world.

Our visit to Indiana touched our hearts so deeply. Jeff and I often find ourselves reflecting on the entire experience and we are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have visited with Wawasee. I invite you to read Jeff’s reflections on his visit to Wawasee and watch the video on that post as well.

I have to add that we left Indiana absolutely confident that Mr. Don Harman deeply cares about each and every student at Wawasee High School. He is completely committed to providing a safe environment where students feel secure in the knowledge that they are infinitely priceless and that their lives matter. Wawasee is blessed to have him.

We are really excited to share that we will be visiting with Wawasee students again on March 21st. Be sure to keep an eye on the Jeff Yalden Facebook Fanpage for more information!

If you would like Youth Motivational Speaker Jeff Yalden to speak at your High School Assembly or Teen Leadership Workshop, please visit JeffYalden.com.

For more information on Teen Suicide and Teen Depression check out Jeff’s article: Teen Suicide and How to Deal for Teens, Families and Schools.

 

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Author:Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker

Youth Motivational Speaker & Teen Life Coach. Since 1992, Jeff Yalden has been mesmerizing audiences with his engaging style and passion. Jeff is a story-teller that every where he speaks, he guarantees he is real and in the moment, perfect for every audience. He is one of a kind. He's interactive and nobody pours as much energy and passion into their programs that Jeff does. Guaranteed, Jeff will be a defining moment and a highlight of your students lives. www.JeffYalden.com

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