Mister Brown Shares His Message to Empower Students
By Sandie Tillery
“Choose well,” calls a student from across the grocery store aisle. “Oh, yeah!” resounds the reply of Mister Brown, who recognizes the youngster from one of many schools he visits in the North State. More than a motivational speaker, Mister Brown (Mister is his legal first name) has developed a style of interacting with young people from kindergarten through college that encourages them to consider how their choices will affect their future. “Making life better through the power of choices” is his motto and the heart of every message.
His student business cards announce his message clearly. Children eagerly collect cards showing Mister Brown holding a puzzle piece, and a dialogue balloon that proclaims, “You make choices and your choices make you.” His signature phrase “Choose Well” leaps out as an encouraging caption. The back has a specific puzzle piece with Mister Brown’s website address where they can go for further age-specific encouragement. Throughout the year, students like to collect cards that have different puzzle pieces and different life principles as they embrace his message, “Choices are the puzzle pieces of life.”
More than 40 schools in the North State and throughout the United States have invited Mister Brown to share his message. His goal is to “empower students, equip parents and support educators to strengthen our communities through the power of choices.” He incorporates personal life lessons and stories to engage students with humor and interactive lessons. His three-pronged approach allows him to touch the lives of whole student bodies while interacting with some students more personally. He speaks at school assemblies, visits his partner schools for monthly lunch and recess interaction (he is the self-proclaimed champion at tetherball at Prairie Elementary School), and mentors specifically targeted students.
Mister Brown wants to help students to have “knowledge to understand their choices, confidence to choose for themselves, and the freedom to choose well.” He talks frankly about such things as bullying, personal responsibility, substance abuse, healthy relationships and character development. He also speaks to parent groups and educators with a goal of giving them better tools for communicating with and guiding the young people in their lives.
An inner city kid from Milwaukee, Wisc., Mister Brown came to Redding by way of St. Louis, where he met his wife. When they came to Shasta County in 2009 to be closer to his in-laws, he was inspired to bring a message to children that he had learned the hard way growing up with a strong single mom. His primary male role model, his grandfather, passed away when he was in ninth grade, and he struggled during those early formative years with all the choices young people face today. He found his gift early as a camp counselor and learned life lessons that have led him to “care about others, my world and myself.”
He wants to connect rather than lecture. He is all about building relationships. His style includes a call and response routine that every child comes to know well. He says, “Choose well” and the whole group shouts back “Oh, yeah.” His ground rules are simple: I will respect you; you will respect me; we will all respect each other; you will respect yourself. Mister Brown tailors his approach and message for each school and engages with creative props, Powerpoint presentations and memorable catch phrases.
His message seems to be catching on. Pacheco Middle School is decorating an outside wall with a mural depicting puzzle pieces and Mister Brown’s message of making good choices. He shares the story of Shane, who two years ago started his middle school experience at Parsons Junior High School on a bad note. This year when Mister Brown went to visit, Shane showed him a Mister Brown business card he’s kept since that first year and reported that he has been making good life choices.
From camps to classrooms, Mister Brown is bringing his infectious message to young people, helping them understand the power of their choices. Parent groups and school boards have taken his message to heart and in a climate where parents, schools and communities struggle to bridge the gap between generations, Mister Brown offers hope.