COLUMBIA — William Henderson III wanted an iPod. An iPod touch to be exact.
So when Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, the keynote speaker at the third annual Expect to Win event at Hickman High School, asked what he’d wanted but never gotten, he knew exactly what to say.
Because Henderson III was the first participant Kickbusch pulled up in front of an audience of more than 100 people, she had a special surprise for him.
“I’m going to make sure you get that iPod,” she told him.
In addition to rewarding audience members who were willing to step up, Kickbusch championed love and self-respect in her presentation. By encouraging audience members to stop making excuses and take responsibility for their lives, her speech fit with the event’s theme of “Failure is not an option.”
The Minority Achievement Committee Scholars program sponsored the conference on Saturday. The scholars program serves more than 500 minority students in grades 6 through 12 in Columbia Public Schools.
Over the course of her presentation, which lasted about 90 minutes, Kickbusch asked audience members to come to the front of the auditorium at Hickman High School and give her hugs to emphasize her message of loving others.
Using her own experiences of being abused as a child as evidence, Kickbusch encouraged the many children in the audience to never give up. She addressed the importance of academic success, dressing appropriately and owing allegiance to oneself above all others.
In addition to promising Henderson III an iPod, she also promised $500 to the Missouri High Steppers, who performed at the event, and gave a copy of her book, "Journey to the Future: A Roadmap of Success for Youth," to another volunteer.
She ended her presentation by bringing all of the students up on stage and asking them to take a pledge to restore pride in their neighborhoods and to stop making excuses for not doing as well as they could in school.
She then asked the Columbia School Board members present to step in front of the children and to promise to put their faith in the children.
“I thought it was cool to learn how to be yourself without having to worry about what other people think,” Ciairah Brandy, an event attendee, said.
Last, Kickbusch encouraged those who felt strongly enough to share with the audience what they had learned. Prarthana Patel teared up as she spoke to the crowd.
“I love my parents, and they do everything for me and sacrifice so much,” she said. “They’re there for me any time I need them.”
Kickbusch left the audience with a final plea for action for the future of the county.
“I will die walking, but let it not be in vain,” she said.
For the past ten years, Kickbusch has dedicated her life to speaking to emerging leaders, particularly children. The army veteran, author, educator and founder and president of Educational Achievement Services, Inc. also spoke in Columbia in September at the 12th annual Minority Student Achievement Network Conference.
The Minority Achievement Committee Scholars program asked her to return because of the positive response she received in the fall.