HAMMOND | What started as an assignment for a freshman English class at Purdue University Calumet is blossoming into a motivational program for Morton High School students and possibly a new campus organization.
Felix Torres IV and Marcus MacCartney, both 19 and 2012 MHS graduates, are partners in the project that will bring Ernesto Mejia, a Latino motivational speaker from CoolSpeak, to talk with freshmen and sophomores at their alma mater from 9 to 10 a.m. April 29 in the school’s auditorium.
“The project is open-ended on the topic of mental health,” said Torres, who is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership supervision at the PUC campus. “Our project is promoting positive mental health through motivation and inspiration.”
The idea to bring a motivational speaker to the high school germinated during a conversation with Doug Friend, Morton High School principal, Torres said. The project got a kick start when Torres met Mejia in February when he attended the United States Hispanic Leadership Conference in Chicago.
“Ernesto is a really inspiring speaker. He went through things in his childhood that he could have used as a crutch not to succeed, but he didn’t do that,” Torres said. “He is using his experience to motivate and inspire others. Almost every person in the room (at the conference) was in tears.”
He immediately arranged to book Mejia’s appearance at Morton High School. CoolSpeak is a youth engagement company that seeks to help students achieve their fullest potential and not drop out of school, Torres said.
In further conversations with Friend and Morton Assistant Principal JoEllen Raby, the partners narrowed the student group for the talk to freshmen and sophomores because upper classmen are being tested April 29. Final arrangements were made in a meeting with administration on April 15, he said.
Torres said he and MacCartney, who is majoring in marketing at PUC, have also founded an organization called “Today Not Tomorrow” as a way to “give back to our roots and keep the train going. In the future, we’d like to do this at other Hammond schools.”
They hope to transform “Today Not Tomorrow” into an official PUC student organization next school year, he said.
“We want people to succeed today, not wait until tomorrow,” Torres said. “Our motto is ‘If you believe you can, you are RIGHT!’”