The Power of Perseverance: PHx Event

The Power of Perseverance: PHx Event

On May 17, students and teachers gathered in the auditorium to hear a series of inspirational speeches. For her senior project, Sam Snedeker organized a TEDx inspired event, dubbed PHx. The event featured two series of speakers, with an intermission in between displaying student entrepreneurs.

The theme of the event was the power of perseverance. Eight different speakers stood upon the stage to tell their own personal struggles and achievements regarding perseverance.

The first of the speakers was Chinese teacher, Liam O’Neill. He told the story of how he learned the Chinese themes of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. While he lived in China during college, O’Neill became immersed in these important Chinese themes.

O’Neill told a gripping story about his running career throughout high school and college. He said that no matter how much he excelled at the sport, he was overridden with anxiety before every race. In fact, he could often be found throwing up before competing due to this anxiety. But, during one race, he felt two competitors beating him. He was not upset about his loss, but rather began smiling. Mr O’Neill explained, “Winning or losing didn’t matter as much as trying my best.”

Following O’Neill was inspirational Pascack Hills student Rebecca Herman. She told the story of how she created her own company, First Dance. Herman said, “This isn’t just a story of entrepreneurship, but one of perseverance.” She described the conditions of her first job, which she achieved at the age of 13, explaining that she was presumed to be lesser because of her young appearance. She even experienced unequal pay for equal, even exceptional, work and her sexual harassment within the workplace. Rather than succumbing to the struggles she experienced, Rebecca persevered. She left her first job and went on to create her own company at the age of 16.

The next speaker was Kimberly Wei, a Pascack Hills alumnus and Hungarian National ice skating champion. Wei began her speech stating, “Perseverance is the story of a fool.” She went on to describe the difficulty she faced during her ice skating career. When she was about twelve, her coach suggested that she compete alongside a boy. Though she was resistant to the idea at first, Wei went on to compete with him. Because of the competitiveness of the sport and her young age, Wei did not succeed at first. The losses made her miserable.

But, she did not quit the sport. Rather, she went on to excel at it. To Wei, quitting just was not an option, so she continued to persevere. She went on to experience incredible success. She joined the Hungarian National Team and worked with a new coach. Wei went on to become Hungarian National Champ.

Following was Taylor Robinson speaking about her new business. She is a Pascack Hills senior with an extreme appreciation for foreign languages and culture. Robinson realized that many of the immigrant entrepreneurs in Bergen County did not have the materials enabling them to excel, such as websites. To help with this problem, Robinson created her own company, TAYHAE. Her company is a startup that aids local businesses new to English in using social media and other technologies to garner publicity.

After the first session of speakers, there was an intermission. The audience went in to the cafeteria, where many Pascack Hills entrepreneurs had set up stands. Students were selling homemade desserts and accessories.  

The second session of speakers came after the intermission. The first person to speak was Rob Salgado. He began with an anecdote about how his father made him re-do the seventh grade due to poor averages in a few of his classes. He explained that he first had to “persevere through that humiliation.”

Then, he told the story of when he served as a military police officer for eight years spending two years serving. His “battle buddy,” Evans, needed help to learn how to do more pushups. When Evans first approached Salgado, he could not do as much as ten push ups at once. Eventually, he learned to do 42 push ups in two minutes. Salgado explained, “In order for me to do my very best, I had to help him.” Salgado’s story of the power of a helping hand was captivating.

Afterwards, Frank Scott spoke. He started with a humorous story about how people envision an event in their head, but are sometimes disappointed by the reality. He explained that people often envision doing well on a test and speaking smoothly to crushes, but their mental image does not come true in real life. He finished his amusing anecdote, Frank stated, “Fifth grade takes no prisoners,” and earned a laugh from the audience.

Frank went on to tell the story of a mishap during his Fall performance in the play Bonnie & Clyde. During the mishap, Frank forgot a crucial prop that many of his lines revolved around. He stated that he was thankful that the lead in the play, Ellie Fangala, was able to cover up for him. While he made an excuse that his character left the prop in the car, she went on stage and filled for him. He was able to come back out, and perfectly execute the rest of the play without the audience suspecting a thing. Frank finished his speech, stating, “What defines us is not the magnitude of our mistakes but the smoothness of our recovery.” The message of being able to recover from a mistake with the help of a friend was a beautiful one.

Afterwards, Vice Principal Tim Wieland spoke. He told the story of a Cuban man he had once encountered who had attempted three times to kayak the ninety five miles from Cuba to America. Though he was not successful even on his third attempt, the man stated that he would continue to persevere in his effort to find a better life.

Wieland continued to speak about a student who he encountered years after teaching him. Although the student struggled in mathematics, he was intent on becoming an engineer. Though many people attempted to talk him out of this, he deeply wanted to learn engineering. Though so many people doubted him, the student went on to get a degree and masters in engineering. Wieland told the audience, “When you find people that tell you you can’t do it, prove them wrong.”

The final speaker of the night was beloved math teacher Charleen Schwartzman. She began her speech stating, “I’m not good at math.” The audience laughed at first, because many know Schwartzman to be one of the best math teachers in school. But, she went on to explain her battle with the subject. As a student, Schwartzman went in for extra help everyday after school.

Eventually, she decided to major in math in college because she enjoyed teaching so much. In college, Schwartzman had the choice between a dissertation and final test. She explained that she studied for six months for that test. When she passed, Schwartzman reached out to her teacher to ask what her exact test scores were. She was told that she received well above ninetys on each section. Because she persevered through her struggles in math, Schwartzman was able to excel in the subject.

The fun night of hope and inspiration put together by Sam Snedeker was a success. All speeches left students, staff, and parents alike with new food for thought in the ways that we all persevere at times.