NILES - A motivational speaker who overcame many difficulties and obstacles in his youth shared his story with students during an after-school program at Brookfield and Niles schools.
The program had youths from the two schools come together for a presentation by Jim "Basketball" Jones of Toledo.
Rick George, assistant director of the Center for Human Services and Development at Youngstown State University, said the two after-school programs offered in Brookfield and Niles deal with bullying, building self-esteem and leadership.
"The students found our speaker by doing research online. They did all the work and brought him here," George said.
Caitlyn Waltenbaugh and Ariel Tarbay, both of Niles High School, coordinated the effort to get a motivational speaker to address the students.
She said she and Tarbay, also a freshman, found Jones when they learned he conducts inspirational shows about bullying and life lessons.
The Career Path After-School Program goes from September to the end of the school year. This is the third year for the program.
Jones shared the message that each person matters.
He said that in first grade, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. This adversity fundamentally shaped Jim's view of the world and provided him with many early life lessons about the good of accepting help from others, overcoming adversity and learning to appreciate differences. These would later become the cornerstones of his career as a public speaker.
"You are important. You can tell yourself you can, and you will," he said.
"We all learn differently. Don't let anyone steal your dreams," he said, noting he often got into fights in elementary school due to frustration.
Jones said he was picked on in elementary school but after learning to spin and juggle basketballs and do tricks, he was asked to entertain at various events, including a Cleveland Cavaliers game.
"Once people saw what I could do, they wanted to learn," he said.
Jones said as he went through high school and college, things began to change as his reading rate improved. He was accepted into Bowling Green State University on the strength of his grade-point average. He graduated from the Bowling Green business college.
Waltenbaugh, a freshman at Niles, said she has been involved with the after-school program for three years.
"You learn to treat everyone equally and learn how to succeed in what you do in life," she said.