ORD — Students at Ord Public Schools spent most of Monday having a conversation with each other and brainstorming how they can “rise up” as positive leaders. Paul Calafiore, star of CBS’s “Big Brother” season 18, joined students in that conversation as he talked about his own passions and making a positive impact through his life.

Calafiore founded The Rise Up as a collaboration with Nicole Herring of Altruistic Events, which is a charity event planning company. The Rise Up is a movement to affect change in the world through positive actions. Calafiore, through The Rise Up, is dedicated to bringing awareness to bullying, sexual violence and domestic violence, and to spread messages of motivation and positivity. Recently, The Rise UP campaigned to raise money for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). The Rise Up has also campaigned to benefit the Cybersmile Foundation, which fights against cyberbullying.

Along with Calafiore’s presentation to sixth graders through high school seniors at Ord, students broke out into small groups for discussion. Groups were divided by grade level. Students broke into partner groups and identified each others’ strengths, and also identified their stressors and insecurities. Lastly, students talked about how they can “rise up” and deal with their stressors in a healthy way and make a positive impact on their community.

Mark Hagge, the junior and senior high school principal at Ord, said the school invited Calafiore to speak and to hold this day-long conversation because “we saw a need for it.”

Hagge said he hopes the students’ discussions can bring up some change in how the school does things. He said issues brought up by students could help the school better serve the students in the future.

Teachers, retired people in the community and those from the Synovation Valley Leadership Academy helped lead discussion groups. Jason Grove of Ord and Steve Dodson of Arcadia, both of whom are involved with the SVLA, led a group of freshmen.

“It excited me to see a passion among adults to see youth in their community rise up, be leaders and look for positive changes in their life to be that positive leader they can be,” Dodson said. “It’s exciting to see the adults believe in these kids.”

Grove said in the group, the students shared what their insecurities or stressors were. He said once one student opened up, others were likely to do the same. He said the students seemed surprised at how similar their worries were to one another, which Grove said seemed to help their self-confidence.

”They realized for the first time that they weren’t the only ones with that issue,” Grove said of the students.

Grove said with an event like this, students can learn how to start building up and encouraging everyone around them. Grove said things like this help provoke a positive change so the freshmen can “be a leader for everyone who comes after them.”

Dodson said “This is something that is important to invest in our children, because they’re our tomorrow.”

Calafiore, who is a Howell, N.J., native, spoke of finding his passion and true happiness by helping others. He was a soccer star while at Rutgers University and got a taste of Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids. He spoke of how he used to want the spotlight on himself, but how being an advocate for others was where he found true joy.

Positivity is one of the key things in life, period, Calafiore said. He hopes his message supporting positivity impacted at least one person.

“It starts with a small amount and it builds to a bid amount,” he said of making a positive impact through a movement. “All it takes is one person to create a movement, and if all it takes is my voice to spark the conversation with other people, then that’s ultimately my goal.”

About his work with benefitting RAINN, Calafiore said more people need to stand up for those who can’t speak. He said survivors shouldn’t be the only ones expected to speak out against sexual violence.

“Morally, that type of behavior is wrong and we need to be there to support those people,” Calafiore said about sexual violence survivors and victims.

”No matter what cards you’re dealt, you have to be able to take it with a positive message and succumb it, otherwise you’ll be dooomed to the negativity that the world puts on you,” he said about making a positive impact.

Hagge said he hopes the students came away from the day with Calafiore knowing that their dreams are important and that they can help create a positive culture in their community.

This wasn’t the first time Calafiore has come to Nebraska, but it was the first time he got to experience it for more of what it’s worth. He’s visited the state for soccer games, he said, but never stayed long. He just played the game and left. He said it was nice to actually meet people from the area and get to know people more.

“Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all cornfields,” Calafiore said of Nebraska. “Everyone here was so nice and so welcoming.”

“I just want encourage people to continue to empower themselves, to continue to rise above all the negativity that you may see in this world and be a positive change,” Calafiore said. “Not just on yourself, but to those around you so that you maybe can impact your community.”

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