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posted: 8/13/2012 5:08 PM

Speaker encourages Jacobs students to grow up and take responsibility

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  • MTV's "MADE" teen life coach Jeff Yalden speaks to students at Jacobs High School in Algonquin on the first day of school Monday.

       MTV's "MADE" teen life coach Jeff Yalden speaks to students at Jacobs High School in Algonquin on the first day of school Monday.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Senior Nicole Vicicondi and her classmates laugh during a presentation by MTV "MADE" teen life coach Jeff Yalden at Jacobs High School in Algonquin on the first day of school Monday.

       Senior Nicole Vicicondi and her classmates laugh during a presentation by MTV "MADE" teen life coach Jeff Yalden at Jacobs High School in Algonquin on the first day of school Monday.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • MTV "MADE" teen life coach Jeff Yalden hugs junior Marissa Ahrens at Jacobs High School in Algonquin after his presentation on the first day of school Monday. His story about the death of his wife's grandfather reminded her of her grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's disease.

       MTV "MADE" teen life coach Jeff Yalden hugs junior Marissa Ahrens at Jacobs High School in Algonquin after his presentation on the first day of school Monday. His story about the death of his wife's grandfather reminded her of her grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's disease.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Perry Elementary School paraprofessional Rose Geijer escorts two young students to their first day of kindergarten Monday in Carpentersville. Geijer usually works with first-graders, but teachers were pitching in all over the school to help things run smoothly as classes resumed in Community Unit Community Unit District 300.

       Perry Elementary School paraprofessional Rose Geijer escorts two young students to their first day of kindergarten Monday in Carpentersville. Geijer usually works with first-graders, but teachers were pitching in all over the school to help things run smoothly as classes resumed in Community Unit Community Unit District 300.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Perry Elementary School Principal Laureano Ortiz-Sanchez encourages young Andres Montoya as he and his classmates line up for the first day of classes Monday in Carpentersville. Ortiz-Sanchez is starting his first year as principal at the school after coming to the district from the Rockford area where he held several different teaching and administrative positions.

       Perry Elementary School Principal Laureano Ortiz-Sanchez encourages young Andres Montoya as he and his classmates line up for the first day of classes Monday in Carpentersville. Ortiz-Sanchez is starting his first year as principal at the school after coming to the district from the Rockford area where he held several different teaching and administrative positions.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Second-grader Jacklyn Vasquez heads back to her classroom with an orange and some milk for breakfast on the first day of the school year at Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville.

       Second-grader Jacklyn Vasquez heads back to her classroom with an orange and some milk for breakfast on the first day of the school year at Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 

The first day of school isn't typically chock-full of learning. Students usually spend the day figuring out schedules, remembering locker combinations and learning their teachers' names. High school students are also wrapping their heads around a new 8-period day.

But teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden delivered a thought-provoking lesson to the 2,100 students Monday at H.D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin. Monday was the first day of classes in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300.

Yalden, 41, a motivational speaker who appeared on MTV's reality series "MADE," told students that life is often harder than it needs to be because of choices we make. The speech tied in with the school's motto of be ready, be respectful and be responsible.

"Disappointment comes from expectations being too high," Yalden told the special assembly of more than 2,100 students. "What if we go through life and go through the school year and we lower the expectations? Because if you do that, you have control over your life, you have control over your choices and you have control over your attitude. I am going to say something that might offend people, but if your life sucks that's because you suck ... Change your attitude, change your choices and life might not be so bad anymore."

Yalden knows the downs of life. Kicked out of home at 17, Yalden joined the Marines at 19, went to war at 21 and was married with two children and then divorced by the time he was 24. He has seen how cruel life and people can be. He watched a fellow Marine commit suicide. He stood by helplessly as a group of teenage girls humiliated his autistic nephew who just wanted to say hi. Then, a few years ago his ex-wife called him up from Dayton, Ohio, to tell him she had left their two daughters at the airport and that she no longer wanted them in her family's life. He drove from New Hampshire to Ohio and saw his two girls sitting on a bench with three black trash bags.

"They had no phone and no money," Yalden said. "All they had was the hope that daddy was going to get them."

Genevieve Goelz, 16, from Algonquin, said Yalden's speech inspired her to take a second look at her own life and have a different outlook for her junior year.

"I feel like I need to go through every moment and enjoy it and not think about the future," Genevieve said. "I know I have to think about the future, like college, but you have to enjoy what is here now because you only live life once and it is going to go away. You just have to enjoy it."

The new school year also brings some changes for students at the district's three high schools. Students will now take eight classes per semester, instead of four classes each of the four terms.

"The thing I liked about the four-block was that you only had at most five classes at any one time, which means only five classes total to organize for," said Matt Wolf, 15, from Carpentersville. "Now, with having seven to eight classes at one time, it is going to be a lot harder to make sure you have everything you need and more to keep track of."

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