Wednesday December 6th was set to be a special day for the students of Canton High School. In addition to being a scheduled half day for professional development, a motivational speaker was booked to be speak for the final two periods of the day.
The speaker, Jeff Yalden, who is self-labeled on his website as “North America’s #1 Youth Motivational Speaker”, has been speaking to teenagers for 25 years about his story. He works to raise mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Yalden posts many of his videos online, leaving students the opportunity to do some research on him before his presentation.
“He seemed pretty acclaimed, so I checked out his Youtube channel,” said senior Kate Devine on her preparation going in to the talk, before adding, “He didn’t really have a lot of videos or subscribers, which surprised me a little.”
The presentation itself lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes. During this time, Yalden bounced around quickly from story to story, covering topics ranging from a personal anecdote regarding a man saying that he wouldn’t hire him while using a urinal next to him to raising a child with severe depression.
Yalden also spoke about his own struggles with various illnesses, both physical and mental, including major depression, bipolar type 2, PTSD, and his overcoming of type 2 diabetes.
After the speech, all students in attendance seemed to have varying opinions on what they had heard. Junior Chad Khalife said he thought the presentation “[in general] was pretty inspirational,” while senior Charlie Malloy thought “he was all over the place”.
This remark from Malloy was one echoed in many of the interviews conducted, including senior John Agnitti who found the presentation to be “very patchy”, as well as senior Nikki Gefteas who said that while Yalden was “trying to display a good message”, it seemed as though “people got lost”.
After giving his talk to the students of Canton High, Yalden was also scheduled to make a presentation for the staff of CHS, as well as a final speech open to members of the Canton community that evening.
However, following the presentation with the faculty, administrators came to the decision that Yalden would not be speaking to the community after all.
Principal Derek Folan said with regards to the cancellation: “After reviewing the two student presentations and the faculty presentations, it was determined that some of [Yalden’s] anecdotes and comments did not align with our core values or expectations for a professional presenter,” before adding, “We decided he was not the right fit for the evening presentation to parents and guardians.”