The man with the gifted hands is also a gifted public speaker. Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon, captivated a crowd of nearly 1,500 people – children and adults alike – during his keynote speech at the Success For Every Student Conference, held Nov. 19 at Overland High School.
Dr. Carson shared stories about growing up in poverty in the tenements in inner-city Detroit, where the “wildlife” consisted of giant rats and rodents. He talked about gang violence claiming friends and relatives, and how he didn’t expect to live into his twenties. But Dr. Carson said his mother made all the difference.
Sonya Carson was one of 24 children, had only a third grade education, got married at 13 and was soon raising two boys by herself. She kept Dr. Carson and his brother on the right track by focusing on education. With her support, Dr. Carson graduated from high school with honors and gained admission to Yale University where he earned a degree in Psychology. He then went on to the University of Michigan Medical School, where his interest shifted from psychiatry to neurosurgery.
“I had a lot of eye-hand coordination and could see things in three dimensions,” said Dr. Carson, of the qualities that help him in neurosurgery. “I believe God gives everybody special gifts. That’s a very important thing for you young people to keep in mind. Every single one of you has intellectual talent.”
Dr. Carson encouraged the students to develop their intellectual talents in addition to their athletic or artistic talents, and to take personal responsibility for their actions, their education, their success.
“The person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you!” said Dr. Carson.
His words resonated with students including Alaysia Robinson, an eighth-grader at Prairie Middle School.
“It was great,” she said. “He made me think about what I need to do to be successful. Get on the right track, get my grades up, do the right things.”
“It was exceptional, inspiring,” said Faunte Thompson, a junior at Eaglecrest High School. “It makes you think about where you want to be in 20 years and what path you should be on to get to that place.”
Dr. Carson’s appearance at the Success for Every Student conference highlighted the importance of STEM education, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM education is the focus of the Institute of Science & Technology, which opened in August on the Overland High School-Prairie Middle School campus. The Institute provides a rigorous STEM curriculum and gives students the opportunity to explore career opportunities in medicine and other STEM fields.
The conference was sponsored by the African-American Parent and Student Leadership groups at Overland High School and Prairie Middle School, with support from the Cherry Creek School District and generous local businesses.
It was the fifth in a series of conferences that have brought in dynamic and inspirational speakers including Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, who was featured in the movie “Waiting for Superman;” Chris Gardner, author of “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which was made into a feature film starring actor Will Smith; and CSI: NY star Hill Harper.
The conferences are an important part of ongoing school-community efforts to raise the achievement of all students and close the achievement gap.