Q&A with Steve Passinault: guest motivational speaker Joel Penton


Who is the guest speaker?

“His name is Joel Penton, and he is a former football player in the Ohio State [University]. He won the Danny Wuerffel award, which is given out to one college football player who exemplifies service to [his] community, academics, and athletics. And he won that award not too long ago.”

What message will he be sending?

“His message is going to be one of positivity. Students might be faced with some challenges, and [he’ll explain] how to persevere and overcome challenges. I think he’s going to tell a little bit of his own story and how he [persevered]. Just being part of a community, being part of a school community, looking out for each other, and treating everyone with dignity and respect is what his message will be about.”

Why was Joel Penton chosen to speak over other potential speakers?

“I was approached by their organization, the organization that represents him. They were going to be in Michigan, and they were looking for a school who’d be interested. Typically you pay pretty big money when these speakers come in, but there was a sponsor, Pizza Ranch restaurant. I contacted some other principals who had him speak at their schools, and they spoke proudly of him. So, I thought we’d do it.”

Joel takes a more positive approach when he speaks. Why do you think this is important?

“I think [a positive approach] is important because I think, especially for young people, when they’re told ‘don’t do this’ or ‘you shouldn’t be doing this,’ I don’t know if it is always the best way to have an impact on students. When you talk about positive ways, I think kids can visualize and see how it fits in their lives. So, I think it’s much more impactful that way.”

What do you hope students take away from this assembly?

“I would hope for two things. [I hope] that students who may be struggling with something can see an example of success and see an example of the perseverance of overcoming difficulties and see that as a light of hope to persevere or overcome any obstacles they’re challenged with. And, anytime we can have someone make a positive impact on our school community, I think it helps with the overall culture of the building and the atmosphere of the building.”