Nationally-known transformational speaker Brent Scarpo took time to address the Warren Rotary Club on Wednesday afternoon while he was in town for a week-long series of engagements in conjunction with the Warren County School District.
Scarpo, a Warren High School alumnus, returned to the area last year after a career in acting and casting on the West Coast and work as a speaker world-wide with a presentation at Warren Area High School (WAHS) titled "Last Call" about drugs and alcohol.
He is currently working in the area as part of a five-year plan to bring character building presentations to WAHS.
Scarpo gave Rotary members some insight into his speaking style, noting he doesn't consider himself a motivational speaker.
"I let whatever spirit I embrace tell me what I'm supposed to say to you," he said.
He spoke about "living from a place of passion" and "being present in your life" and discussed his dedication to service.
Scarpo said he believes everyone is imprisoned at some point in their life and quoted a tag line from "The Shawshank Redemption", a movie on which he worked in casting, as a guiding philosophy.
"Fear will keep you prisoner," he said. "Hope will set you free."
Scarpo spoke about his approach to life and "letting what's supposed to happen, happen."
"I try to get myself out of my own way," he noted. "One of the things I teach is a lot of us get in our own way... Listen to what the world's asking you and have the courage to show up."
Scarpo shared that he had a book coming out in the near future inspired by a story he sent in to the Today Show which was chosen from hundreds of thousands of entries as an inspirational story. The book, he said, is a collection of inspirational stories, including the one he sent to the show, about growing up with his mother.
Scarpo shared a number of stories included in the upcoming book.
He also explained his five-year plan with the high school.
Scarpo said he is working with former classmates at Whirley Industries to bring the plan to fruition at no cost to the district.
The plan was formed last year when he presented at the school. At the time, he presented to Principal Jeff Flickner the idea of implementing a five-year program focused on character at the school including further presentations, character-based scholarships and a teacher of the year award.
The group behind the idea is working to raise $100,000 to cover scholarships, awards and expenses to have Scarpo, who still lives in California, speak. The group has raised $25,000 thus far.
After last year's decision-making program on drugs and alcohol, this year Scarpo is presenting to students on bullying in a program called "Why Do You Hate Me?".
He said this year's program is about "creating a hate free society" by looking at the underlying cause of bullying and hateful behavior, which he identified as self-hatred.
Next year, Scarpo plans to present on "Finding Passion and Purpose In Life".
Another component is a series of $1,000 scholarships for students based on character. Scarpo will participate as part of a panel evaluating students based on teacher recommendations for character, rather than grades or school activities. To qualify for the scholarship, students will be a required to complete and document a community service project.
Finally, the plan includes a teacher of the year award of $1,000 for an educator. The award will be presented to a teacher chosen by students and will not be expected to be used toward education goals.
"I want them to go buy Super Bowl tickets," Scarpo said.
He also thanked the Rotary Club for its work and its service.
"I love all that you are," he said, pointing to the organization's work at community service and understanding of others. "If we can do that, we can make a better world."
In addition to his talk at the Rotary, Scarpo is presenting two assembly programs for students, holding a teacher workshop, working with small groups of students on bullying issues and holding a parents' night presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday at WAHS.