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Speaker to students: Grow into your dreams
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Shaun Derik, founding partner of R.E.A.C.H. Communications and a nationally known speaker, filmmaker and author, will speak at several local schools this week, sharing his message of empowering youth and their dreams. (Bulletin photo by Harrison Hamlet)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

By HARRISON HAMLET - Special to the Bulletin

Dreams are something to grow into, not something to reach for, according to nationally known speaker, filmmaker and author Shaun Derik.

Derik, is a founding partner of R.E.A.C.H. Communications Inc., a group specializing in youth development through positive programs, and Dreamsong International, a production company “designed to deliver inspirational and relevant content” to youth, according to Derik’s website.

He is speaking at several area schools this week to spread his message of empowering youth and their dreams.

“Shaun is back by popular demand,” said Katie Connelly of Piedmont Community Services. “He could be anywhere, he could do anything he wanted, but his calling and his passion is to support youth, and he is using his talents and gifts for the youth, and for that I am very thankful.”

Connelly works with CHILL (Communities Helping Improve Local Lives), a student group that advocates for alcohol-, tobacco- and drug-free youth. CHILL is sponsoring Derik’s talks.

This is his fourth time speaking locally, and he said he keeps in touch with many area students through social media.

Although Derik is working on a documentary series titled “Journey Me,” a book for release this fall and a movie project, he said he was happy to return to the area and to CHILL, an organization that helped launch his career in 2008, when he first spoke to area students. He said that the speech was the first one he gave as part of Dreamsong International.

The title of Derik’s program for the week is “Use Your Inside Voices.” The theme of the program is “there is something on the inside that is telling you that you are incredible, you are important, you are beautiful,” Derik said. “A lot of times, we wait around waiting for someone to tell us that ... it’s not their job; it’s yours, actually. It’s all about using your ‘inside voice,’ the thing that tells you to do the thing that is the most beneficial for your life.”

Derik added that he hopes students “embrace others’ differences, but not only that, embrace your own differences. When you accept your differences, you’re able to focus on your strengths.”

The program features audience interaction with students on stage talking about their strengths, doing an exercise in power, doing rhythmic exercises with clapping and beat-boxing, and a dance competition to close the program that “helps young people to step up to challenges, be bold and do something outside the box,” according to Derik.

A self-made man, according to Connelly, Derik grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to New York City about 10 years ago to further his career.

“I was a struggling teen,” recalled Derik. “I did really awful in school, and they thought I was a problem child or that I was going to go the wrong way. But there was one guy, a music teacher, who saw that I was a genius, not a problem child. He only spoke to that genius. He stood up for me. So I think that Martinsville will be fine as long as there are more advocates,” like his music teacher in this community.

“Because I’m like a kid — and believe me I am,” said Derik, “until I lose that, and I hope I never do, it is my duty, I believe, to work with young people while they still relate to me.”

Derik’s speeches at Magna Vista High School, Martinsville Middle School, Martinsville High School and the Regional Alternative School on Monday were canceled due to weather.

He will speak today at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, as well as Friday at Laurel Park Middle School and Bassett High School. His tour of area schools will conclude Friday evening at CHILL Youth Task Force’s 11th annual Youth Rally on the campus of Patrick Henry Community College.


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