By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It’s been some years since musician Robb Nash was a partying high school student and some years since he hit a semi-truck in a head on collision that peeled back the roof of the car he was in and left him on the highway, his skull torn open, his life hanging in the balance. Nash survived that tragic accident, but his hospitalization prevented him from finishing high school and entering college; his long-term injuries prevented him from getting a job. But as the lead singer of Live on Arrival told students at Georges H. Primeau School Wednesday afternoon, he did not give up, not on himself or anything else.
After a successful music career with his band that included two Canadian top ten singles, Nash left the rock and roll road and now travels the country speaking to students about dreams, goals and the importance of second chances. Nash, who was given a second chance at life, now expends his energy using the power of music to reach young people in the hopes of showing them they do not have to make the same mistakes he made. But make no mistake about it – Nash’s message is not the standard drugs are bad message students often here nor is it the same old stay in school and get good grades refrain youth have been told for generations. Nash’s message is a deeply personal one and one that encourages youth to find what they are good at then tap into it.
Nash told students the why is more important than the what. “I never ever wanted to be a rock star,” Nash said, adding his worst marks in school were always in music. “It wasn’t about what I wanted to do it was about why I wanted to do it.” The musician said many adults can tell people what they do and how they do it, but are often unable to explain the why. “For me it wasn’t about what I wanted to do. It was about I wanted to tell my story so that you guys don’t have to get hit by a semi-truck before you realize how precious your life is. You have a purpose.”
The performer’s message seemed to resonate with the students who quietly listened to Nash’s stories and message between songs and who enthusiastically applauded each number. That connection with the singer and his message continued after the assembly through the band’s Facebook page.
“Thanks for coming today u really changed how i think about things and i kinda wanna do the same thing as u cause i play guitar drums and sax and ur band really has perpous,” wrote one Primeau student.
For another student, Nash’s message of giving consideration and time to the students who may not be part of the in crowd seemed to hit home. “Thank you soooo much for coming to gh primeau today it was AMAZING and really inspiring the song bullet really inspired me to be nicer to the people who dont have as many friends. Thanks,” the student wrote.
Heroes program to begin second year
Nash and his band’s visit to Morinville was made possible by the Impact Society, founders of the Heroes Program, a concept introduced to the school last year by Family and Community Support Services coordinator Amy Dribnenky.
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“Heroes is all about getting kids to recognize their gifts, abilities and desires to succeed,” Dribnenky said after the assembly, adding she became acquainted with the program at a Thrive conference she attended a couple years ago and recommended the program to the school last year for the Grade 7 students. “We find Grade 7 is a good age for our town and our hope is to get all of the kids through [the program].”
One of the instructors for the program is Morinville resident Valerie Loseth who was involved with Heroes in its inaugural year. Loseth said Heroes is a 12-week program based on three principles: character, integrity and confidence.
The first three weeks are spent on self-esteem and moves on to discussions on how to build strong character as well as having good friends by being a good friend. “You have balcony friends that lift you up and basement friends that pull you down,” Loseth said, adding not many students want a lot of basement friends in their lives. “We tell them how to judge who is who and those sorts of things. The final component of the program is a look at integrity and how to follow through with what one says they will do or how to stick up for the student being bullied.
Loseth said although there is a workbook students use, much of the program boils down to conversation in class. Those conversations have created opportunities for students to discuss their experiences, reactions to experiences and how they might have or might not have done things differently.
The program volunteer said she is looking forward to entering those discussions for another year and said she got a great deal of enjoyment from working with the students last year. “I just like the kids to know that I’m there for them,” she said, adding she has always enjoyed working with youth. “I just think they [the students] are at such a vulnerable age, and they don’t have a lot of advocates for themselves. They have to deal with a heck of a lot more stuff than I ever did as a teen.”
Loseth said she felt it was important for youth to have a support system, particularly one that includes adults. “It’s nice for me to be able to walk down the halls of the school and know the kids by name and be able to converse with them and not feel like I’m up here and they’re down there.”
The Heroes program is set to begin its second year of instruction and conversation this week.