Motivational speaker has student leaders on their feet

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hundreds of student council members from middle, junior high and high schools across the state clapped, danced and shouted with glee at the Missouri Association of Student Councils' state convention in Cape Girardeau on Friday.

About 1,200 students and advisers attended the three-day convention at Cape Girardeau Central High School. The convention wraps up today with a presentation honoring the Special Olympics.

Motivational speaker Josh Shipp had students standing and clapping during a Friday morning speech. Shipp stood on a stage in front of a giant mask, part of the Mardi Gras decorations that blanketed the school.

"If you choose to lead an average life, you are not living. You are existing," he said.

Shipp grew up an orphan. He was molested in a foster home. He repeatedly tried to commit suicide when he was 8 years old. But the 23-year-old California-based speaker has found success speaking about the power of positive thinking.

"We can choose to get bitter or we can choose to be better," he told the state's student leaders.

"I was always getting kicked out of class for talking. Now I get paid for it," he said, prompting laughter from the audience.

Students attended various leadership sessions, and schools competed for officer positions and the right to play host to next year's convention. During breaks, many students danced to music videos projected on screens on either side of the stage in the high school gymnasium.

Central High School student council members spent the day helping to direct the convention. Central High student Jenna Matthews said she was exhausted but excited by the convention. "It's really neat," said Matthews following the convention's morning session.

Central High student Amanda Dewrock said students from participating schools had no trouble relating to each other. "It doesn't matter where you're from," she said.

East Prairie High School student Taylor White was thrilled to attend the convention. "It's awesome," said White, sporting Mardi Gras beads around his neck. "All the kids are really nice."

White said one thing was obvious Friday: the hard work of Central student council members to put on the convention.

White also was impressed with Cape Girardeau's modern high school. "This school is really nice," he said.

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