“He went on to become very successful as a businessman and an entrepreneur,” she said.
When Berkes and the DHS students left Ojeda Jr.’s talk last year, she said, “the students and I were like ‘Wow.’ He had us crying at times and laughing at other times. He was really compelling.
“His story is applicable to many people, but particularly to students in different (cultural) communities,” Berkes said. “He provided a solid, tangible message of overcoming obstacles and pursuing lifelong learning.”
Berkes said Ojeda Jr. would be relevant to Danville students because “he is young, cool and has experiences similar to many students who struggle with the motivation to stay in school, get a high school diploma and create lives full of success and community involvement.”
Al Bello, director of radiology at Danville Area Community College and a volunteer adviser of the Hispanic Leadership Council, helped form the council at DHS about five years ago.
“I meet with the kids during homeroom and talk to them about the importance of attendance and grades,” he said.
Bello said his 15-year-old daughter, Sara, who is an officer in the leadership council, heard Ojeda Jr. speak at the Latino Youth Council last spring and wanted him to come to Danville.
“The high school is always looking for minority motivational speakers, particularly Hispanic, because the Hispanic community is growing,” he said.
Bello said bringing Ojeda Jr. to Danville was “a push from the students. It’s a grass roots effort.”
Like Berkes, Bello said Ojeda Jr.’s message is “fairly universal.”
“His message hits a chord,” he said. “It’s a great message for parents and adults, too.”
Motivational speaker Carlos Ojeda Jr. will give three presentations on Feb. 7 — 8:45 a.m. at South View Middle School, 10:15 a.m. at North Ridge Middle School and a final assembly at 1:30 p.m. at Danville High School.