A Youth Training for the 21st. Century

Written by Marlene Johnson

Independent Writer - News Media

 A group of African-American honor students from the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area has a new sense of themselves. They are winners and now they know it, thanks to "The Secrets of Winning" training course sponsored by the Institute for Self Esteem and Evaluation (ISEE), Inc.. The course was just completed by 36 of the 350 African-American honors students in grades 9 to 12 at the John F. Kennedy High School in Montgomery County, MD. where the student population numbers 1,300.

Frederick Penn, founder of ISEE, said honor students were targeted for the course because "we wanted to start off with the cream of our race...youth that are underexposed...the silent success stories we have in our community." He said African-American honor students often are ostracized by their peers and must overcome negative peer pressure. "They sometime make unpopular choices and often lack the necessary support from their parents." Penn believes his Transformational Self Esteem is one solution to this dilemma.

"Most troubled students lack self-esteem and a sense of personal power. But the ones who get into trouble are not the only ones who lack self esteem." Penn describes "The Secrets of Winning" is a transformational training program that actually changes lives by giving participants' tools that put them in touch with their personal power. "The idea behind the course is to make our young people wise, to give them the necessary common sense and the necessary tools to experience success now rather than waiting until they are 30 or 40 years old."

The students, mostly sophomores, didn't know quite what to expect when they walked into the classroom on July 27. The lessons were a potpourri of hard hitting videos, self awareness exercises like "I promise my ancestors" and discussion topics focusing on leadership skills' development, acquiring the self confidence of a winner, the power of the spoken word, listening and speaking skills, ways to dissipate and destroy negative peer pressure, the meaning of courage, understanding adults and having good manners.

"At first I thought the class wouldn't do anything for me except give me a chance to catch up on some Zs (sleep). But I was in for a rude awakening," said Alex Peniston who has been in honors' classes since 6th grade. "After the first session I couldn't wait for the next ones to come around," said Peniston.

Damon Briggs, a 17-year- old who is physically challenged with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound, said during one of the first classes he received some diaphragm coaching that enables him to project his voice louder and more clearly.

Vanessa Webb said she was "a little confused and a bit shy" on the first day of class; Amber Lundy "didn't quite know what she was about to experience" but remembers being told on the first day of classes that she was special and important; and Joyce Wanga admits being painfully shy and full of self-doubt. Karema Daley confesses that at first she thought the training was going to be boring because it was about me...and I thought I was boring. I didn't know the real meaning of 'myself.' So Penn gave Daley and the other students the following definition of 'myself':

"I exist in my mind.

I am my own thoughts.

I am my own actions.

I am my own habits.

I am creating my impression and expression of myself.

I know that in all recorded and unrecorded, known and unknown time there hasn't been and never will be another me.

I am the first and I am the last; Never again will there be another me.

I am myself, I am my own identity.

I am my own unique self"

Mr. Penn got us started with "I" statements that made us own everything we said," Jamil Jones explained.

Penn said "the course is not based on any particular religious dogma, but rather draws upon the inner resources that help young people resist counterproductive peer pressure in the academic environment, as well as outside. It gives them tools and puts them in touch with their personal power. This course teaches young people how to win."

After spending three hours a day, three days a week for eight sessions, the students shared their newfound perspectives for themselves with their parents and other students during graduation exercises on August 15.

Peniston, 15, who plans to follow his father's footsteps and study medicine, said "The Secrets of Winning class has taught me a lot about my ancestors and that I shouldn't waste my life or else I would accomplish nothing... This class is exactly what a person like me needs in becoming a young man. Mr. Penn has been my guiding light."

Briggs praised Penn for teaching that differences in people are acceptable and OK. "He really lets you know that it's OK to be different." Briggs said. "As an African-American male with cerebral palsy, it makes me feel good that somebody in this society is listening to what I have to say. I am more self confident," said Briggs who wants to be a malpractice lawyer.

"This class gave me a better understanding of myself and where I come from," said Webb. "My self esteem and my self confidence have skyrocketed to a place I've never seen or felt before. The level of respect for my ancestors and my race as an African American woman has elevated. I now have a feeling inside that I can do anything."

Lundy said "The Secrets of Winning built my self confidence to a new level. I know there's nothing wrong or conceited about being bold or considering myself as an exceptional person." She said enrolling in the class is "one of the many steps I am taking to be the best I can be."

Wanga, 15, is now well on the way to claiming her personal power. "Now I can really look people in the eye and not become shy or timid. I can really open up to people," Wanga said. "I have found a new way of approaching my future. I learned a new way to attack my problems, a way to reach my dreams," she added.

Daley admitted that prior to taking the class she only wanted to hang out with her friends, to be a face in the crowd, and "stomp with the big dogs." She said the thing she loved best about the training was the idea that "I am a lion, loose in the streets,: to which she added, "Hear me Roar."

In his graduation letter to Penn, Jones wrote "I have not felt the same since enrolling in the training. I have higher self esteem and I am determined I will always do my best. I will not forget my ancestors. I will not be average, and I promise that I will be successful."

According to Penn, ISEE offers employment to students who have completed an advanced course in Transformation Training. "We identified five youth to join our staff, because we believe in providing our young people with employment so they won't have to go out and beg for a job." Twenty students from this summer's program have already signed up for the advanced training course and will be eligible to become study group leaders. "Wherever there is an honor roll or a gifted program, I want a study group with one of our trained youth as facilitators," Penn said. ISEE will offer "The Secrets of Winning" course at Anacostia High School in Southeast Washington, D.C. in October.


Official PayPal Seal