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THE vanguard

April 9, 2015


Courtesy of metowe.com

Spencer West encourages students to redefine possible

Motivational speaker Spencer West working with Free the Children. BY jennifer wright News editor

“I never thought I was different until I went out in public. Then other people made me feel different.”

said, “but if we stop looking at challenges as if the universe is out to get us we might learn something from them.” He talked about his own challenges by sharing his journey from the corporate world to Free the Children. His first few jobs out of college were in the corporate world, and he slowly worked his way up in management. “This was a job that paid really well,” he explained. “I had money, I had the right clothes, I had a car, I had all the latest gadgets. I had a pool in my backyard. But once I had all those things I wasn’t any happier than before.” After achieving everything he thought he had wanted, West found himself stuck. Finally, a friend invited him to join Free the Children on a volunteer trip to Kenya. But at first, he said no. Going to Kenya would require him to step outside his comfort zone and take big risks, and he was hesitant at first. But he couldn’t stop thinking about the invitation. Eventually he agreed, and his entire life changed. When he returned to the U.S., after witnessing the poverty in Kenya, he couldn’t go back to his old existence. “I knew if I came home and did nothing it would be an injustice,” he said. He accepted a job as a motivational speaker

millions who have heard him speak, he uses his life powerfully every day to create much needed social change in our world, and he brings a powerful message that business students have a responsibility to lead the way toward a more just world.” These three lessons have taught West to redefine his possible, and on Monday night he encouraged the Bentley community to do the same. He stressed the importance of using business not just to give back to the community, but to operate in responsible ways, focusing on people, planet and then profit. He finished the evening by reading the university’s mission statement, pointing out that Bentley is built on the very values he had just spoken about: “to educate creative, ethical and socially responsible organizational leaders.” The four student leaders who brought West to campus, Joe Chiarelli, Jillian Eglitis, Jake Mekin and Sameer Melwani, certainly fit this idea of a business student focused on social responsibility. The students have worked together with the Service-Learning Center for the last year to create BUIILD, a two-week long awareness and fundraising campaign, and Spencer West was a major highlight. BUIILD is broken down into two weeks: the first week, was about raising awareness. This week, they have turned their efforts toward fundraising, aiming to raise $10,000 to build an elementary school in Ecuador for West’s Free the Children organization. They are doing so by selling $5 bricks as part of a “brick-bybrick” campaign, and asking Bentley students to contribute in helping kids in this Ecuadorian community have the opportunity to redefine their own possible. This campaign will continue through Friday, April 10. Students can purchase bricks in the Service-Learning Center (Morison 100) from 8:30am4:30pm for the rest of the week. If you would like to contribute or to learn more about the initiative, please contact Bria Wilbur, the Center’s Assistant Director of Programs and Initiatives, bwilbur@bentley.edu.

Courtesy Jennifer Wright/THE VANGUARD

Spencer West, a world-renowned motivational speaker for the international nonprofit Free the Children, said these words while speaking at Bentley on Monday, April 6. Brought to campus by a collaborative sponsorship of eight different departments and organizations on campus, he was here as part of the kick-off to BUIILD’s week-long fundraiser to build a school in Ecuador. As discussed in the March 26 edition of The Vanguard, BUIILD, or “Bentley United to Improve International Livelihood & Development,” is a student-led initiative through the Bentley Service-Learning Center that is currently holding a twoweek long campaign to raise awareness and funds for Free the Children. Spencer West came to campus to share how he redefined his possible. Born with a genetic disease called sacral agenesis, he was forced to have his legs amputated as a child. Going into public resulted in the same three invasive questions, sometimes

before people even learned his name: 1) Where are your legs? 2) Can you go to the bathroom? and 3) Can you drive a car? He realized that people weren’t seeing him as a person – they were seeing him strictly as someone without legs. But West is much more than that. He is an “author, a motivational speaker, a son, a grandson, a nephew, a friend, and wants to be a dad someday.” These are the traits that he wants people to focus on; he doesn’t let his lack of legs define him or limit him. He has found a way to redefine his possible, and now travels the world inspiring others to do the same. He has shared the stage with world leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Jane Goodall, and Martin Luther King II, and he shared his story of redefining possible with the Bentley community on Monday. He did so through three key lessons: 1) find the lesson in every challenge, 2) ask for help, and 3) create social change. Pairing each lesson with anecdotes that ranged from hilarious to heartwarming, he related his very personal story to everyone in the audience. First, he stressed the importance of finding the lesson in every challenge. “We’re all going to face challenges,” he

with Me to We (a social enterprise that supports Free the Children) and an ambassador to Free the Children, where he has been inspiring people all over the world for seven years. Second, West shared his lesson that asking for help was not something to be ashamed of. “I was embarrassed to ask for help because I thought I was supposed to have all the answers. And that’s not true.” He shared his now famous story of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, in a wheelchair and on his hands in May 2012. The climb was much more treacherous than he and his team had expected, and he was forced to complete most of the climb on his hands, to the point where they went numb from overuse. The friends and fellow activists he traveled with supported him by cheering him on and even carrying him at times. He didn’t want to accept their help at first, but realized he had to if he wanted to make it to the top. And he had to make it to the top, because he was in the process of raising nearly $600,000 to help provide sustainable sources of clean water to people in Kenya. It was on summit day that he was able to return the favor and help his friends. The altitude had become too much for his friends, and they suffered greatly, falling to their knees and vomiting from the sickness. West was one of the few unaffected by the high altitude. He was determined that they would finish together, though, and he became the one helping them. Though he couldn’t carry them up the remaining steps, he started providing encouraging words, leading the way and pushing them until they reached the top. Finally, West spoke of adding social value to your community. He said he had never felt like he could add value – he had been told that it was doubtful he would ever be a functioning member of society as a kid, and had to prove that wrong every day. Now, West spends his life making a difference. Dr. Jonathan White, Director of the Bentley ServiceLearning Center and one of West’s dearest friends, adds, “he has touched the lives of

West speaking on April 6, 2015 in Koumantzelis auditorium.

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