Remember when you were a teenager? (It gets harder as days go by…) Perhaps the most admirable trait — among many — of young people is their quest for truth. In recognition of this, Irvington Prep established a speakers series this school year called Real Talk. Mrs. Harmeyer, IPA’s assistant principal, came up with the idea based upon a previous practice of having freshmen advisories meet on occasion with the deans to talk about the most important thing any of us have going on: life. The Real Talk concept gained momentum immediately following a discussion Mrs. Harmeyer had with Irvington Community School, Inc. Board Member Leona Frank and IPA Principal Brad Weinstein.

Krystal Ardayfio talks about bias and engages students in self-advocacy

The cusp of the conversation, you ask? School leadership was looking for creative, inspiring and aspiring methods to further engage students in a meaningful, and sometimes life-changing, conversations. Thus, Real Talk was born.

Real Talk takes place during lunch periods, and participation is optional. And, although student interest was initially slow, participation increased over time as word spread about the “real” quality conversations that were occurring. Speakers have been sensitive yet frank in their presentations, which the students appreciate, evident in their high level of engagement. Hearing about life from parents and teachers is one thing; hearing it again from a third-party usually connects the dots. “As a result of the series, students have been able to network, share stories, get advice, and even shadow a speaker for a day to learn more,” notes Mrs. Harmeyer.

So far, the following speakers have given/hosted a Real Talk:

— Tim Mulherin, ICS CEO and poet: On Racism and Becoming a Critical Thinker
— Travis Montgomery, attorney: Life Skills
— Jason Miller, motivational speaker/business owner: Every Problem has a Solution
— Chase Mosby: Student Suicide Awareness and Prevention
— Erica O’Neil, Ethical Choices Program: Factory Farming and Our Food
— Krystal Ardayfio, local business owner: Bias and Overcoming Struggles — Don’t Be a Victim
— Edward Rogers, Indiana Black Expo: The College Journey

Mr. Mulherin found the experience to be nothing short of remarkable. “Sharing a difficult part of my past with the students was a great privilege,” he explains. “Not only were they active and respectful listeners, they interacted with me on a deeply human level, sharing their own challenges relative to mine as a young person. Our students are thoughtful, sensitive, and hungry to learn. I came away reminded of what amazing young people we have here at IPA.”

Mrs. Harmeyer thinks the experience has been good for everyone involved — including her. “I have truly enjoyed creating this initiative and working with the community to bring in relevant and engaging speakers for the students. During the talks, I have seen students thinking more seriously about their lives, their future and careers, and what they value in their educational experience here at IPA. Real Talks provide students an opportunity to hear someone else’s story and help them realize that they can persevere and be successful. It has been very inspiring to witness.”

Rounding out the remainder of the 2017-2018 Real Talk speakers are:

— Lauren Hall, former NCAA Division I athlete and local community member: The Power of Habits
— Joby Ballard, IPA Dean Randy Ballard’s brother: Choosing the Right Path
— T.J. Parker, Prudential Financial Services: Financial Literacy for Students
— Joshua Christian, former foster child: Motivation and Perseverance
— Edward Rogers, Indiana Black Expo: Drug Awareness and Prevention

It’s not too early to get on the agenda as a Real Talk speaker for next school year. If interested, please email Mrs. Harmeyer with a description of your proposed talk, why you think it’s relevant for teenagers, and your related professional and personal background information for review.