PEABODY — “Do you like high school?” motivational speaker Norm Bossio asked students at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School. “Stressful?”
The kids started to yell, confirming that Bossio’s guess was correct.
“Good high school kids never relax,” said Bossio, during his presentation at the school on Wednesday.
The event was sponsored by the Peabody Education Foundation (PEF) as a part of its new mental wellness initiative, launched in collaboration with North Shore Bank, the JB Thomas-Lahey Foundation and the GraVoc Charitable Foundation. The goal is to help the district’s schools deal with the mental-health issues that have escalated during the past two years due to COVID-19 as well as other challenges.
Bossio shared personal stories and jokes for the students’ benefit. For example, he said that one time when they were feeding seagulls on the beach, his 4-year-old granddaughter said she wanted to feed the small seagulls before she could feed the big seagulls.
“If I don’t feed the small seagulls first, the big seagulls take all the food and the little seagulls don’t get to eat,” she said, according to Bossio. His suggestion to the students was to treat “the small seagulls amongst” them with the same kindness.
“Take care of them,” he said. “Speak for people who can’t talk for themselves.”
Bossio also invited the students to not try controlling what was beyond their control. “There is only one person you can control, and you know who it is – it’s you,” he said.
“Nobody is better than you, and you are better than nobody else,” he added, suggesting that the students should be kind and respectful, and that they should laugh every day. He also suggested that they should take care of their older relatives, and that they should try to become part of something greater than themselves.
“Being motivated spreads, but guess what else? Being sad or being miserable spreads,” he said. “Live like you mean it. Live with someone who adores you. Live with laughter, live amongst friends, live without the iPod. And live as if today is all there is.”
Bossio has been delivering motivational speeches for more than 30 years, and has spoken to nearly 3 million people, from high school students to nuclear physicists. He has been a keynote speaker for many national conferences, and his audience has ranged from Bill Clinton to Stephen King, according to his website. He previously worked in education, starting as a teacher and progressing to superintendent of schools. He also was an adjunct faculty member at Stonehill College.