When David Lee Morgan comes to Niles Middle School each week, it is like coming back home.
''I grew up here,'' Morgan said. ''I ran around at the rib fest, the Eastwood Mall and I even worked for the light department when I was in college.''
It makes sense that Morgan would bring his message of positive attitude, character and self respect back to the town where he spent a good bit of time before he ended up as a sports writer with the Akron Beacon Journal and the author of eight books, including ''LeBron James, the Rise of a Star.''
Niles Times / Bob Coupland
Makayla Butler, left, and Geno Barricella, at right, both eighth graders at Niles Middle School, look over items from guest speaker, David Lee Morgan Jr., center, who visits the school each Wednesday with his motivational program MVP. The program, for students in grades sixth to eighth, stands for ‘‘Most Valuable Person’’ and focuses on positive attitude, self reliance and goal setting.
''I accomplished a lot as a journalist,'' Morgan said, ''but near the end I started going into schools more and more and felt like that was what I needed to do the rest of my career.''
Leaving his job with the newspaper, Morgan designed and wrote a workbook around his character building and literacy program, ''MVP, Most Valuable Person.'' Each week the students who participate work on a different chapter in the book. Chapters include Character, Self-Respect, Friendship, Family, Teamwork, Apology/I'm Sorry, Compassion and Sports.
Along with the message in each chapter, Morgan introduces a quote to the students and asks them to write something about it.
''For example, one of the quotes was, 'take a lesson from a mosquito, she never waits for an opening, she makes one,'" Morgan said. ''After a while, they get it,'' he said.
Adding sports to the mix, Morgan believes that participation in sports helps not only to build teamwork, but also helps students the proper way to overcome losses.
''I was a marginal student,'' Morgan said, ''and I would have never guessed in a million years that I would be the author of eight books.''
Morgan said he hopes his example and his message of self confidence will convince other marginal students that if he could do it, so can they.
Morgan earned his bachelor's degree in professional writing and editing at Youngstown State University and earned a minor in journalism. He was a baseball and basketball player at Warren G. Harding High School in Warren and was inducted into the Trumbull County African-American Achievers Hall of Fame.
Working with the non-profit organization, Brightway Center, Morgan helps students build character and confidence while stressing the importance of education by traveling throughout northeastern Ohio and visiting at least one school each day.
Through his MVP program, Morgan said he hopes to convince students that it's okay to make mistakes.
''We are not perfect,'' he said. ''I make mistakes in my life, everybody does.''