In celebration of the upcoming National GEAR UP week, over 700 juniors and seniors from eastern Oklahoma recently traveled to Wilburton High School to participate in a motivational speaking event featuring Carlos Ojeda Jr, founder and CEO of Coolspeak: The Youth Engagement Company.
Carlos shared with students his personal journey and the struggles he faced as a young person growing up in a New Jersey inner city. Gang violence prompted his immigrant parents to move his family to a small Pennsylvania town, where he found school difficult because of the cultural and educational differences. Ojeda was rescued by an educator who saw his potential and guided him through his high school years, helping him to become the first person in his family to graduate high school and college.
Ojeda encouraged students to recognize “your voice is your power, with your voice you can ask questions, questions give you answers, answers give you knowledge and knowledge gives you power.” He concluded the assembly with a question and answer session and photo opportunities.
Schools attending were Bokoshe, Buffalo Valley, Cameron, Canadian, Clayton, Crowder, Haileyville, Hartshorne, Howe, Indianola, Keota, Leflore, McCurtain, Moyers, Panama, Porum, Quinton, Rattan, Spiro, Talihina, Whitesboro, Wilburton, and Wister.
The event was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. In 2017, Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.