At the conclusion of the Personal Development Conference, Nov. 19-20, Dr. Shellie Stewart spoke with students and faculty in the Performing Arts Center.
“I sought Shellie Stewart as the closing speaker because I have heard him speak and was familiar with his work,” principal Gary Minnick said. “While he always emphasizes the importance of education, literacy in particular, he does it through the amazing story of his rise from a heartbreaking childhood to great success in radio and in business. His story is more than one of overcoming adversity, however. It is also one of forgiveness and healing between individuals and the races. It was a valuable lesson to help our students understand that adversity and differences do not have to embitter us or keep us from success in life.”
Stewart’s life as a child was not a fairytale. Stewart witnessed his mother being killed by the hands of his drunken father at a very young age. He was then abandoned, along with his other brothers, by his father on the back porch where they only had a mattress to lay on. In order to survive, Stewart had to look in trashcans for food. Despite the problems that were going on at home, he still went to school.
“It was interesting that someone with so much tragedy during their childhood, could overcome it and use what tools he had in life to make his life better,” junior Stephen Gilbert said. “It’s a lesson that we can all use in our own lives.”
At his school, Stewart’s teacher gave him hope and encouragement. His teacher told him, “Get an education, learn how to read and you can be anything you want to be”. Stewart took his teacher’s advice and learned to read. The ability to read help mold him into the person he is today. Shellie Stewart is the founder of the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation. This foundation works to decrease the dropout rate.
“You can’t get through life successfully without knowing how to read,” junior Ariana Falkner said. “It’s a basic necessity in life.”
Throughout his speech, Stewart gave students inspiration and encouraged them to be anything they want to be. The abuse from his father and the encouragement from his teacher helped him become who is. Stewart took his problems and turned them around and helped thousands.
“Overall I was very impressed with his speech,” junior Alli Burr said. “The experiences he spoke about were something we can all learn from no matter our life situation.”