JHS alumnus, Chappale Linn Burton told JHS students in Brenda Latimer’s and Faith Grahams’ English 12 class about a turning point in his challenging life.
“One of my greatest mentors Ron Graham, who coached me through Chautauqua Striders, asked me in my sophomore year, ‘What are you going to do after high school?’ I told him of my plans to go into the military. He told me, ‘Fair enough, but if you could go to college what college would you go to?’ I told him I would go to the University of Pittsburgh and he told me, ‘Great, then that is where you will go.”
Mr. Burton became emotional talking to the students over Zoom about the life-changing moment.
“I didn’t know that I could go to college. It was a turning point in my life. I didn’t believe in myself but with Coach Graham, my other coaches and a special teacher, I realized that I needed to believe in myself. They gave me the tools I needed to succeed.”
Mr. Burton took the time to talk to the JHS students through a connection with English as a New Language co-teacher, Dr. Graham who has known Mr. Burton since he began running for the Chautauqua Striders. Her dad told her his story, including the many challenges he faced growing up. Mr. Burton published a book, How To Choose Happiness, and sent her dad a copy when it was published. Dr. Graham thought it would be a great idea to bring him to town to talk to students. Mr. Burton has visited Jamestown to talk a few times through JCC’s GEARUP program in 2008 including JHS, all three middle schools, JCC students and Dunkirk High School students and also presented a workshop for JHS teachers.
The students in the English 12 class are seniors and the teachers were looking for a way to help them transition out of high school and learn how to set goals to meet their individual needs. Students have been answering and researching many things such as: what type of job are they interested in, what opportunities are there in the field they are interested in, do they need or want to go to college or do they want to enter the workforce directly, what will they do for transportation and what is the process for getting a driver’s license, to name just a few. Along with planning for transition out of high school, the teachers wanted the students to read something inspirational so they could understand how much potential they have, set high expectations for themselves, and the importance of expressing their goals and planning out the steps they will take to achieve them, whether that is college or entering the workforce. Mr. Burton’s book and story were aligned perfectly with what the students were doing in class.
“When Faith mentioned Mr. Burton, I went right to my bookshelf and found his book,” said Mrs. Latimer. “I remember listening to him speak to students at JHS several years ago. I talked to him afterwards and got a copy of his book. It was exactly what I was looking for. We have been starting class each day with a passage from How To Choose Happiness. Students developed questions for Mr. Burton that we emailed prior to his visit. The students listened and heard what he was saying. I am truly thankful for the experience and to have the opportunity for Mr. Burton to work with my students at JHS. Ironically, we were able to get a much more personal experience because of distance learning.”
The teachers believe distance learning actually opened up this opportunity for their students. The students could see Mr. Burton’s passion and talk directly with him. Mr. Burton told the teachers that he would like to come back again in six weeks to check in on the students. He also gave his email to a couple of students that stayed to talk a little longer so that they could reach out directly for additional help.