A singer and songwriter whose music has appeared on MTV shared his message of hope and self-belief with a capacity crowd at Whitehall High School last Thursday.
Jared Campbell, an accomplished musician from Binghamton, performed uplifting songs and shared stories about his own experiences with several hundred students in grades six through 12.
The performance was the culmination of Peace Week, a schoolwide effort to encourage tolerance, nonviolence, and respect of self and others.
Throughout the week student-led groups such as Railroaders Against Violence Everywhere, Students Against Drunk Driving, Peer Helpers and others discussed tolerance and respect during lunch periods. The students and faculty wore Railroader Peace T-shirts on Thursday.
The week is part of an annual effort to reinforce those messages and typically concludes with a guest speaker.
Last year’s speakers included anti-bullying author Jodee Blanco, and Kendall Jeter, a former president of the Glens Falls chapter of the NCAAP.
This year, officials decided to bring back Campbell who visited the school a couple of years ago.
Met by chance
Topher Montville, junior high guidance counselor, said he met Campbell several years ago at a school counselors’ conference and he agreed to come back this year at half his normal rate. Administrators received a grant from Stewart’s to pay for the remainder.
Campbell’s music has appeared on hit television shows such as “The Real World,” and “Road Rules,” and the Blue Project, an interactive live concert aimed at teaching students practical life lessons through song, has been performed at schools throughout New York and Pennsylvania.
“My main focus is on being positive and looking past and overcoming obstacles,” said Campbell. During his performance Campbell mixed humor, music and his own experiences to communicate his message.
He encouraged students to go back to a time when they were young kids and all got along, when there weren’t assemblies on bullying and tolerance.
“Kids are fearless but something changes along the way. In middle school and high school we lose that sense of fearlessness; we stop believing in ourselves,” he said. “I play middle schools and high schools because I believe in you.”
He sang about people who changed the world in their own ways and believed in themselves, while images of Rosa Parks, Michael Jordan, and Rachel Scott, the first person killed at Columbine High School and whose acts of kindness were the inspiration for a nation-wide school presentation encouraging student to create a positive culture, flashed on the gymnasium wall behind him.
He also talked about two of his friends — Dan and Danielle — who overcame obstacles in their lives to live extraordinary lives.
Campbell told them Dan, a talented athlete, lost his leg to cancer, but never stopped believing and went on to compete in the Olympics as a skier, and Danielle was paralyzed by a drunk driver but used the experience to teach students about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
“I think you can all be world changers,” he said.
The performance and the message implicit in his music seemed to be well-received by the audience, many of whom stuck around after the presentation seeking autographs.
Dominic Gregory, a student at Whitehall, took a few minutes to post a message on Campbell’s Facebook page afterwards.
“You and I are a lot alike since that you look at the inside of people instead of the outside. I believe in treating people equal. I also play guitar man and you inspired me a lot,” Gregory said.
Montville said Campbell’s combination of humor, the style of his music, and his silliness make it possible for him to connect so well with the students.
After his performance, Principal Kelly McHugh evoked the lyrics of one of her favorite songs, Taylor Swift’s “Mean,” a song about believing in oneself even when others try to knock you down, wrapping up Campbell’s performance and Peace Week in a few words.
“That the message I want you to take away today, ‘the cycle ends here.’”