The notion that success requires sacrifice served as a theme for motivational speaker Keith Brown's lecture Wednesday to fifth-grade pupils at North Harlem Elementary School.
The tassel is worth the hassle, Brown told them, referring to the high school graduation tradition of switching the tassel hanging from a graduate's hat from one side to the other after a commencement ceremony.
Brown, a professional motivational speaker and author of five self-help books, said he specialized in speaking to students about improving their grades and setting high academic standards for themselves.
Each of the past four Aprils, Brown has spoken to North Harlem Elementary pupils before they take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests - a benchmark exam in Georgia that education officials use to determine a school's adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
North Harlem Principal Kirk Wright booked Brown to speak with his pupils early this year to motivate them to keep their grades up through the second semester of school and as a reward.
Along with other Columbia County Title I schools - Brookwood, Bel Air, South Columbia and Grovetown elementary schools - North Harlem was recently recognized by state education officials for meeting adequate yearly progress requirements three years in a row.
Wright credited Brown for North Harlem's success in living up to No Child Left Behind standards.
As a child in Queens, New York, Brown said, he was listed as a special-needs pupil and at-risk youth. Through his own work, he improved his grades and found academic success.
"He gets on their level," Wright said. "He shows them what they are capable of if they apply themselves."
Brown told pupils Wednesday that if they can master the television or a Nintendo, then they can do the same with their schoolwork.
"Whatever it takes," Brown repeatedly said as the fifth-graders repeated it back to him like a mantra.
"If you can memorize every rap song, if you can watch MTV, you can pass the CRCT," he said.
During his lecture, Brown formed the youngsters into a circle and had them put their hands on the shoulders of the pupils next to them.
It served as a reminder that each pupil's performance on the CRCT affects the pupils next to him because the entire school will be judged based on their collective performance.
He also reminded pupils, though, to set high goals for themselves for their own sakes.
"That's what people are going to know you by - your scores," he said. "They're not going to know you by your name-brand clothing."
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