A day of inspiration

Speaker inspires students to find their superpower

Performer Shaun Derik literally had students at Port Chester Middle School doing cartwheels during a special assembly as the school celebrated No Place for Hate Week.

Mr. Derik, a motivational speaker with an extensive experience working with youth, offered PCMS students a funny, engaging and inspiring performance. It focused on finding their superpower and using it for good to help build one another up.

Each year, PCMS hosts the anti-bullying campaign No Place for Hate Week, which is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. Throughout the week, students engaged in activities and events to bring awareness and solutions to ensure students feel safe in their school. It also helps them to know what they can do to assure that other students feel the same way.

“Being cool to one another is what it’s all about,” Principal Patrick Swift told students as he introduced Mr. Derik.

On Feb. 16, Mr. Derik performed a total of three shows, one for each of the grades. Using humor, music and his persuasive personality, Mr. Derik talked to students about his personal experiences, showing how much they have in common. In sixth grade, he found his “superpower” and shared that it impacted his life by giving him the confidence to follow his dreams.

Mr. Derik also discussed his school days. He was not a great student, he admitted, and it was a stressful time in his life.

“I really felt left out because I felt left behind,” he said.

What turned things around for him was getting caught in the music room by a teacher he did not know. He had snuck into the room to play piano when the teacher found him. He thought he would get in trouble, but the teacher was impressed with his talent and encouraged him to keep practicing. The teacher said he was a “genius" because he played by ear and not by reading music.

“It was my first time having a sense of self confidence,” Mr. Derik said. “If you feel good about yourself, you talk good about yourself.”

At that moment, Mr. Derik realized his superpower was playing the piano. Although he didn’t always like to practice, his mother reminded him that he was not going to be successful unless he did. He begrudgingly continued practicing. Now music is an integral part of his shows. He shared his brilliant rendition of “Chopsticks” and played music by John Legend, The Temptations and Beethoven.

Mr. Derik encouraged students to think about their passions and what gives them confidence. One replied that having a twin makes them feel cool, while two others said that they love to draw. The students who responded were initially unsure of what to say. Mr. Derik said that it is often hard to say positive things about ourselves. For example, if he were to ask students to spend five minutes writing what they liked about themselves, they could do so quickly. However, if he asked them to write what they do not like about themselves, they would likely write for longer than five minutes. 

It is up to you to create good energy for yourselves, Mr. Derik said. He demonstrated this by having each section of the audience clap in different rhythms. As the clapping proceeded, the energy level in the room increased and students began cheering. 

“That is how far kind words can take you,” Mr. Derik said once the clapping and cheers subsided.

Using that energy, he invited four students on stage for a dance competition. With music playing, the audience cheered for their dancing classmates. Mr. Derik discouraged the audience from laughing at the performers, reminding them that “all dance is self-expression" and that the dancers were free to express themselves.

At the end of each performance, Mr. Derik revealed his mission for them: “This week, I want you to tell one person one positive thing. No matter how big or how small, you can set someone on a powerful path."