THEY INSPIRED US; THE STORIES OF LYN HEWARD, JOHN QUINONES,MAE JEMISON AND ERIC WHITECARE.
It was normal for me to expect the usual seasoned conference speakers in the mould of educationists and motivational speakers in a kind of conference organized by NAIS (National Association of Independence Schools) in Orlando, Florida from February 26th – 28th of February 2014, but that was not to be. Instead, we had the rare privilege of having speakers whose only association with education would probably be, passing through schools at one time in their lives.
Though eclectically selected for the conference from diverse backgrounds, they have a lot of things in common. They did not seem to have any chance by virtue of their backgrounds of becoming somebody in life. Where there were no opportunities, they literally created them and lastly, these were no motivational speakers, so they had the advantage of speaking from their hearts, by plainly presenting their journeys through life, as a mirror for us all to see ourselves and make our own decisions.
Lyn Heward is a consultant for Cirque du Soleil,a renowned circus company and International Gymnastics Federation. She showed us how to make creativity a part of everything we do. She took us on an exciting trip through video clips of Cirque du Soleil of pure exhibition of creativity and innovation. A fluent speaker, Lyn has the uncanny ability to take her spell-bound listeners through a mind blowing trip of possibilities and fantasies, relating all these to everyday living, which would benefit us in the areas of risk-taking, leadership, teamwork, product development etc. Personally, listening to Lyn I saw a woman who was able to bring structured academic and business discipline to an otherwise spontaneous creative field like the circus. What is the lesson for us? Creativity if not properly structured and channelled becomes nothing more than a leisure walk and of a sheer waste of resources!
John Quinones is one speaker who would make the hardest of men to cry. He genuinely shared his background, having grown up in a poor Latin family of migrant workers, to eventually become ABC’s first Latino correspondent. His story is one of hope out of hopelessness, encouraging us all to pursue our dreams, regardless of socioeconomic barriers, which he himself overcame to become who he is today. He never fails to attribute his success in life to education.
Being a practical man, his emotionally charged presentation was laced with clips from his popular reality show, What Would You Do. The programme actually tests people’s reaction when faced with a situation, especially one that demands speaking out against evil or doing something. There are hidden cameras to achieve this and in most cases, the basest part of human instinct often overrides his humane side. How do we react to situations around us? Do we just walk away or think someone else would do it? It is a call for responsibility. The fact that you are privileged to see a problem, is probably telling you that you are the solution! WHAT WOULD YOU DO, WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING AT YOU!
Here’s a popular clip from youtube:
Mae Jemison was the only African -American speaker in the conference and incidentally the first woman of colour to travel to space. She served six years as a NASA astronaut, flying aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour mission in 1992. She was also the first NASA’s first science mission specialist.
Mae spoke of her growing up in Decatur, Alabama, the youngest child of Charlie Jemison, a roofer and carpenter, and Dorothy (Green) Jemison, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, when Jemison was 3 years old to take advantage of better educational opportunities there, and it is that city that she calls her hometown. She spoke of her childhood dream of always looking into the sky, imagining herself one day being in space and through dint of self -belief and determination; she achieved her dream, not only as an astronaut, but also as a medical doctor.
She was an unassuming lady , who simplified and demystified the abstruse myth of Space Science .She spoke glowingly of the untapped potentialities of space. Life in the space is there to be explored and according to her, there is no limit to human search for knowledge, to better the lot of humanity. If you are still in doubt about the importance of space science, think of Google map, think of GPRS and think of your mobile phone. All these are inspired and literally controlled by Space Science.
Mae Jemison inspired us especially the girl child, to have self belief and move beyond battling with the mundane, but thinking far into space, where there are boundless possibilities and opportunities.
Eric Whitacre’s story was mind-blowing. He literally created something out of nothing, out of sheer creativity and imagination. He graduated from the University of Nevada, with no direction of what to do next. He volunteered to bring some school children together to form a choir. From here, more inspiration came, until he discovered the possibility of bringing ‘virtual’ voices from different parts of the world to form the now novel concept of Virtual Choir. He simply merges the voices of thousands of international singers into a global choir via the internet that transcends geography, class and background. His recent accomplishment is Virtual Choir 4 which featured 8,400 voices from nearly 6,000 singers representing 101 countries.
In today’s diverse but interconnected world, it is important to embrace technology’s potential for bringing people together and fostering collaboration. In our world of visible faces of impossibilities, there are many possibilities. Whitacres shares this spirit that encourages this kind of collaboration, as well as strategies to manage networked groups.
Incidentally Eric Whitacre’s session was the closing one and we all could not but take a second look at ourselves asking the question, have we done enough? Are there more possibilities to be explored? Truly, some speakers only motivate and you can only be motivated for a while, but there are those that truly inspire and they leave a life-long impact on us.
Kunle Abrahams from Oxbridge Tutorial College, Lagos
attended the NAIS 2014 Conference in Orlando, Florida.
They inspired us! Mr. Abraham's experience at the NAIS conference