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Speaker encourages Woods Mill High to take a new approach to challenges
Wood’s Mill High School students, from left, Quanesha Davis, Christi Somerville, Shelae Shields and Maria Loera stretch a large elastic band as part of a demonstration of resiliency and teamwork. - photo by Tom Reed

Jamey Moore knows a lot about picking yourself off the ground to move forward in life.

Moore, a Gainesville City Schools instructional coach, talked to students at the nontraditional Wood's Mill High School on Thursday about facing challenges.

"I believe with all that is within me that you have something to add to this world that others don't, and it's because of your life experiences," Moore said.

The 100 students, who are trying class at their own pace this year, joined the program to play catch up, get ahead with classes or take class outside of the normal operating hours.

For some students, life obstacles such as pregnancies or working to pay the families' bills get in the way. For others, the traditional high school classroom just isn't their thing.

Each morning, the students eat breakfast together and then attend an assembly, which features school officials or community members who describe their own life battles and how to keep pushing forward with education.

Moore told the students to approach their new class challenges with resiliency - the key word he emphasized again and again.

"How many of you have Silly Bandz?" he asked as he borrowed one from a student, stretched it and let it fly across the room. "They stretch because they're flexible, and they fly because they have strength. Resiliency is the ability for something to get stretched and come back to its original strength."

Moore mentioned the influences that divorce and government housing have had on his own life.

"You have something in you that people who are constantly winning and victorious don't have," he said. "It's that ability to get knocked down and stand back up. It requires losing to learn this, and I want to stretch you today."

Moore showed a clip from the movie "Rocky Balboa," in which Sylvester Stallone confronts his son with tough love.

"The line that sticks with me is ‘If you know what you're worth, go out and get what you're worth,' " Moore said.

"Somewhere along the line, something changed and the son let other people define who he was. Who feels like you've been defined before and let it happen to you?"

Students across the room raised their hands. Moore led the students outside to do a team-building exercise to demonstrate resiliency.

He and three Wood's Mill teachers stepped into a large elastic band, forming a square. As two partners facing each other walk backward into the band, the other two bounce off the side and hit the opposite end of the band.

Only two groups of students dared to try.

"It was really powerful, and I felt like I was being thrown to the other side," said sophomore Christi Somerville. "I was nervous at first, but I'm glad I tried it."

As students got the hang of trading spots in the band, the process moved faster and the band bounced them harder, sometimes making the students run into each other.

"Life is going to come at you hard, and it's going to knock you down," Moore said. "But in those times is when you learn the most about what needs to change and how you can grow."

Moore challenged the students to find a passion, not just complete requirements for a high school diploma.

"You stepped up, you sat down in an interview and told us traditional classes weren't working for you," he said.

"You said you were going to take a chance. Things are going to knock you down here, but let them. And then learn."


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