Photos by Rome City Schools

Habitudes kicked off last Friday with a very special guest who offered a new way of thinking to faculty, students and volunteers at Rome Middle School. First speaking to the seventh grade class and then the eighth, Joseph Sojourner is an Atlanta transplant by way of Akron, Ohio who specializes in motivational speaking and encouraging others to be open and receptive to change.

During his address to an audience of Habitudes instructors and the students they will begin teaching on September 11 of this year, Sojourner touched on a variety of topics, and all of them focused on connecting with others and forming meaningful relationships with people outside of your comfort zone.

Using references like the algorithms of social media, current social boundaries and fear of the unknown, Sojourner challenged the crowd to stop and talk with others who may be different. Not only did his lesson provide ways for students to seek out diversity, but also to embrace the chance to learn something—or someone—new.

“I am always excited to meet and talk to someone who may be different than I am,” he said to the crowd of attentive listeners. “I want to see how they can make me a better person, or at least more educated about their way of life.

After his talk, Sojourner asked the crowd to talk with a neighbor, any neighbor sitting next to them in the gym. The only stipulation was that it had to be someone they did not know. He asked them to share one of their fears, one of their strengths, their likes and dislikes, their failures and their successes. The goal was to open the dialogue and begin to heal the rift between people who seldom interact, therefore making the entire school culture one that breeds leaders who are not afraid to take charge.

“I loved the city of Atlanta because I love rap music. I chased my dream and I began to work in the field of entertainment. I am amazed at all of the new directions the industry has taken me. But, I quickly realized that while you are chasing your dreams you can become completely self absorbed,” Sojourner said when recalling why he started to reach others through motivational speaking. “I learned that as you begin to help others, you help yourself in a totally different way. We are taught to chase after all of the things we want, to get paid a big salary, but many times we still feel unfulfilled and unhappy. I then realized that the greatest way to help yourself is to help others and once I grasped that life lesson, I started giving back.”

Sojourner went on to talk about people in his life who were instrumental to his success and the reason why he feels Habitudes is so successful.

“There was a guy in my church who really helped me. His name was Brother Vince,” he said. “I didn’t have a dad growing up, but he would take me to get ice cream, play basketball with me or buy me a new shirt for the first day of school. He was the first person to teach me what a mentor looked like. It does not matter if I’m walking into a church, a school or a company; I always try to find ways to help others. I want them to realize that I am there for them based on my actions, not just my words.”

For those potential mentors who are on the fence about Habitudes, who are questioning whether they can do it or not, Sojourner has some words of encouragement for you as well.

“The Habitudes program makes it so easy. There are very simple illustrations that help to drive home the lessons. All you have to do is be there to cheer them on and let them know that they can do it.”