San Gabriel Mission High School

How?

I was approached by Calvin Rafah, the Creative Director of Amour Propre, an organization dedicated to the message of anti-bullying and self-love. The name of the organization is actually a French phrase that means, a sense of one’s own self worth. Calvin has been doing assemblies in schools around the Greater Los Angeles area for a few years now to help children with that issue. He also host a podcast talking about the same topics with successful people of all different backgrounds and careers. He brings a concise and strong message from varies diverse sources. Calvin talks about his own experiences in school with bullying and he hopes to help those in similar situations.

From Left to Right: Devon Cajuste, Shervin Roohparvar, Bryant Wood, Kerlee Leilani, Melody Bueno, Ryan Russell.

When and Where?

Therefore, when Calvin approached me about coming on board and doing some public appearances, I was honored to team up. Talking to kids in school who normally don’t have someone to talk to or don’t feel like they can go to their counselors or parents. He was scheduled to speak at San Gabriel Mission High School on March 26, 2019. The group was five deep and the moment I met the other speakers, I myself was inspired. The speakers ranged from WWE champion Karlee Leilani to actor and business man Shervin Roohparvar. Everyone bolstered unique perspectives that would really add color to the presentation. The stage was set and the dream team was assembled.

San Gabriel Mission High School

What?

We got nothing but positive feedback from the faculty, staff, and most importantly, from the students. Karlee gave a heartfelt speech about a little girl who refused to let the world silence her. She spoke about finding purpose, passion, and perseverance.

Shervin talked about believing in yourself to achieve your dreams. Also, he admitted to being a bully in the past, something he is not proud of today. He encouraged everyone to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they were part of the problem or part of the solution.

Devon had a charismatic way of delivering a strong introspective message about bullying. He addresses those accused of being bullies head on, asking them why they feel the need to pull themselves up by bringing others down. He then ties that into learning how to love yourself so you don’t feel the need to lash out at others. Devon’s huge personality was a great way to lighten up a very heavy topic.

Bryant’s speech started off with his personal journey finding happiness and fulfillment in the present. He believes that focusing on the past hardships and future stressors don’t allow you to love yourself in the present. He talks about his acting career and modeling, but admits he feels the most fulfilled when home with his mother and sister.

Finally, I was the last speaker to share. San Gabriel is an all girls Catholic school so I was concerned at first with being able to connect. I spoke at length about female role models I had growing up. I talked about the amazing things I’ve seen women do when they come together and love themselves. The future is female. The world began with women and so it will change through women. I talk more about finding out specific ways to take care of your self physically and emotionally. I share some of my candle lite hot bath routines, some of my meditation practices, and more.

The speeches, though nerve racking, were the easy part. After we all spoke the assembly was open for a Q&A. The questions we got ranged from personal self love tips to dealing with loss and grief. It was obvious these girls were not just paying attention, but were invested in trying to make a change for themselves. It was marvelous.

Ryan Russell answering questions at the Anti-bullying and Self-Love assembly

Why?

With every new and exciting adventure or challenge we take on we will be met with criticism and resistance. As a matter of fact, I have received a lot of people questioning my intentions with public speaking. Also, some people think I am splitting my time and efforts too thin. People do not believe I’m capable of being an author, public speaker, and football player efficiently.

First, I am not trying to be 100 different things. I am all of those things already, I was born with those gift. Furthermore, in my heart has always been a mission to help incite change, and share varies stories.

Second, doing one thing I love helps me to pour more of myself into my other passions. Writing fuels my fire for change. Football fuels my passion to always be better, to always strive to do more. Speaking to people, connecting, sharing my story, and hearing others gives me courage.

Thirdly, I have tried to limit myself before. Young man and athlete are often discouraged from creative ventures. The stereotype of male athletes also led me to believe that I would not be an effective public speaker. I don’t want any person to feel they are only one thing; none of us are. Don’t rob the world of all the incredible gifts bestowed upon you.

Finally, I want to help. Helping others is what’s most important in my mind. My mother always told me, ‘You’re either helping or you’re hurting” there was no middle ground. I’m going to make the world a better place.

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