Chapin, SC - Motivational speaker Kevin Atlas visited students at Chapin High School on February 28.
Atlas spoke to students, faculty and staff about his experience becoming an NCAA Division I basketball player despite being born with only one arm.
“I pray every single one of you guys can look in the mirror and love yourself right back because y’all are beautiful,” Atlas told the assembly. “There are 7.5 billion people on the planet and there is only one of you. You’re a piece of art and you should never apologize for that, but you have to learn to accept yourself before the world can accept you and that’s a fact.”
Atlas talked humorously about his struggles at school and at home. He credited the kindness of his high school classmates as what saved his life and encouraged the students at Chapin High to do the same for each other. He challenged each of them to give three compliments every day to classmates as a way to share kindness.
“Every single one of you in here has a nub, something you want to change about yourself, an insecurity that you get made fun of for,” he said. “Own it. You didn't choose it. If you can't own it, the world isn't going to own it for you. My greatest weakness became my greatest strength because I accepted this arm.”
Student leaders were given the opportunity to talk with Atlas after the assembly to learn how they can help implement his message in the school.
“One of the biggest things we are struggling with is having one big family,” said Chapin High student Mckenzie Lott. “We know that the best way to support each other is by coming together, so we talked about bringing the leadership groups together to form a big group. We also went over different strategies that we are definitely going to use to make our school a better place.”
Junior Paige Maylath added, “What came out of today that is so important is that we realize that we have all the pieces needed to address issues at our school. It is just a matter of working together and using the resources we have in the best way possible.”
After playing D1 basketball at Manhattan College in New York, Atlas has gone on to become a board member at the New Jersey Special Olympics, is a spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of New Jersey and travels the world as an inspirational speaker. He has partnered with Varsity Brands to launch the Believe in You campaign which aims to teach students about the incredible power of believing in yourself, despite the challenges and trials that life may present.
“Kevin Atlas is not just a motivational speaker, but someone who speaks from the heart,” said Chapin High School principal Michael Ames. “It was wonderful to see him make connections with kids. He talked about removing the mask and that it is okay to find someone to go to talk to if they need help. He also encouraged students to help others who may need help and be receptive and to bring those people into their family. Today was really about inclusivity and bringing people together. We now have a better understanding on how to act on it and do that here at Chapin High School.”