How could I motivate you for a new year of school? How could I convince you that class could somehow be just as exciting as a summer vacation? How could I help you see the long-term benefits of getting an education when most of us can’t see what we will be doing next week? I admit, sometimes I am part of the “us” that can’t see what I will be doing in the short future. Traditionally, when you look for someone to be a motivator, you look for someone who has dedicated their life and their energy to what they are motivating you to do. I am not that individual. People that don’t know me, they would never believe that I dropped out of high school. They would say I look like your “all-American, blond haired boy.” Only to find out to their disbelief, that they are wrong. In my junior year of high school, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I quit school. However, I did the hard thing… I went back. My name is Brett Campo and I am an ex-high school dropout. There were many factors that influenced my decision to drop out. Ultimately, however, the choice to drop out was just that… a choice. I was presented with the option of getting a high school education, or taking the easy way out. I chose the easy way. However, a group of teachers, mentors, and friends that were part of my high school’s dropout prevention program found me walking along the easy path. They showed me that going back to school was the hard choice. But it was the right one. They empowered me with the resources I needed to finish my high school education. They empowered me with the resources I needed to seize my second chance. It was not the easiest choice I have ever made by any stretch of the imagination. But it was the right one. And it will have benefits that even I cannot see right now. So I write to you today as a redeemed quitter. I write to you today as one who was given a second chance at the most valuable of gifts… an education. I write to you today as one who is grateful beyond words that he took that second chance. Why did I take the second chance? Because a high school education is invaluable. Statistics show that your success in life can almost be directly correlated to the level of education you achieve. If I would have kept walking along the easy path, my opportunities later in life would have been severely limited. Why did I go back? Because a group of people invested in me and showed me that I did, in fact, have a choice. My destiny was not determined by my circumstances. My destiny was determined by my choices. That is the message I want you to hear from me today. Your destiny is determined by your choices. You have a choice. Either you will seize the moments and educational opportunities which you are presented, or you will choose the easy path. Choose wisely. The choice you make will determine the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong…there are many parts of school that are very enjoyable. The friendships we make. The extracurricular activities in which we get involved. The teachers we have. The lessons we learn. When I went back to school, I was not simply making a hard choice and walking a hard path. I truly enjoyed it. I, however, can only sit before you and write to you of my experience as one who quit and went back. I was not a star student who loved school. I do not live, breathe, eat, and sleep education. What I am is a human being who made an honest choice, an honest mistake…and made an honest effort to correct that mistake. That is the heart I want you to see. That is the Brett Campo I want you to know. Wherever you are at in your school journey right now, I am sure you have faced obstacles and challenges. Strive to overcome those obstacles. Don’t set the bar low. Jump high. You will reach heights you’ve never imagined, as have I. Just look at me. I dropped out. And now I have a high school diploma, working on a college degree. I wasn’t defeated by my choices and my circumstances. I overcame them. You can as well. Find a group of friends and mentors who will push you to embrace your education. A support group is invaluable. It is what pulled me off the easy road and led me down the hard one. Always remember that your education will largely determine the rest of your life. We aren’t dealing with small choices here. We are dealing with big ones. Hard ones. But I truly believe that if a redeemed quitter like myself can make the right choice… you can to. Armed with a high school diploma, I travel around the state of Mississippi motivating students to stay in school. I never try to misrepresent what school is or will be, or what my experience with it was. I have a lot of great memories from my high school years. But I also know I made the wrong choice. And then I made the right one. That is all I’m asking you to do. As the cliche says…when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Do not choose the easy road like I did. I may have simply taken a detour to my final destination, but I beg you…please stay the course. You will be forever grateful that you did.

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