Actor encourages students to believe in themselves

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2006

Students at Luverne, Brantley and Highland Home schools got a special treat Monday when National Youth Motivator Ken McDonell entertained and enlightened them about making wise choices for their future.

This was a kick-off for the school system's Red Ribbon Week where the theme has been &#8220Believe! Achieve! Succeed! Be Drug Free!”

McDonell is a native of Tampa, Fla., and is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. He has appeared on Broadway and throughout the U.S. in numerous stage productions. His television credits include &#8220One Life to Live” and &#8220All My Children,” in addition to various national T.V. commercials.

&#8220In junior high, I failed every class that I had after lunch because that was naptime to me,” McDonell told students at Luverne High School Monday morning. &#8220But, on the first day of my senior year, the counselor pulled me aside and said that I had all the credits I needed to graduateŠ.here's a list of electivesŠ.choose what you want to take.”

McDonell said he chose a drama class that was right after lunch so he could &#8220continue his naptimes.”

&#8220I slept for the first two weeks,” he said, with a serious yet comical look. &#8220After that, the teacher got me up in front of the class every day; then she told me that she wanted me to play the lead role in the senior class play, and I said, ‘No way! I can't memorize all that!'”

McDonell ended up doing the play, and when he received a standing ovation at the end, he said that he was hooked.

At 17, he took a bus to New York and stayed there for the next 15 years.

&#8220We just don't realize where our opportunities may come from,” he said. &#8220I took a drama class so I could sleep, and look where it took me.”

McDonell told the students that they needed to have the desire and the passion for something in order to do well.

&#8220Plus, you must be committed to it,” he said. &#8220There are too many people who are not willing to do what it takes to be successful, and they get nowhere.”

&#8220And, don't allow someone else to talk you out of your dream,” he added. &#8220Why would you let someone else give you negative advice and tell you what to do with your life? They're just trying to hold you back with themŠ.you know, misery loves company.”

McDonell said that confidence was not something that comes easily to many people, and that a fear of rejection was something that everyone felt and must be overcome.

&#8220If someone doesn't like you, there is nothing you can do about it,” he said. &#8220It's their problem, not yours. You've got to get over the fear of rejection.”

McDonell said that being an actor caused him to face a lot of rejection on a daily basis, and that everyone is going to hear the word ‘no' all throughout life.

&#8220But, just remember that every time you hear a ‘no,' that brings you one step closer to hearing a ‘yes,'” he said.

At the end of his presentation, McDonell had the students to fill out a chance to win a free college scholarship valued up to $100,000 to the college of their choice. It was sponsored by the Barbizon School of Modeling, Acting and Personal Development.