Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Joel Penton teams with parents to tackle issues

JERRY CITY -- Former Ohio State University defensive tackle Joel Penton will share his positive message of commitment and standing your ground with students in Wood County tonight at the Elmwood Community Center.

In October, he brought this same message to students, parents and community and school leaders, at a forum and presentations throughout Wood County. He is returning this week to share his message with even more people.

He tells the story about how he made his commitment to football in seventh grade and surrounded himself with friends who had similar commitments. Those friends promised each other to not get involved in “the wrong things,” and they remained successful until one of them went out with another group of friends and got drunk.

One by one, Penton’s friends continued to choose activities that interfered with their commitment to football until only Penton was left. Despite being treated poorly by his friends and other students in his school, he kept to his commitment to football and found new friends.

“It’s real and it’s pervasive,” Penton said in October of alcohol abuse in schools. “These kids that come up and talk to me and pour their hearts out to me are the kids who are going through the same thing I went through. In my school it was alcohol. In other places, you can fill in the blank.”

He told the story of a girl at a school “about an hour from here” who was in the same situation, except instead of alcohol, the drug of choice was cocaine.

Penton, age 26, also offered advice to parents.

“It is possible for students to make responsible decisions, so do not lose hope,” he told them. “The influence of friends is real. Pay attention to who your child’s friends are.”

“My parents played the biggest role in my ability to make the right choices,” he continued. Their obvious love for me wasn’t conditional.”

“As much as friends can be a negative influence, they can be a positive influence, Penton told the students who attended the discussion. “One of my biggest regrets from when I was in high school is that I was so focused on keeping myself out of alcohol that I didn’t help my friends get out of it. You guys have a lot of power.”

Tonight’s community forum will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Elmwood Community Center, located at 7650 Jerry City Road. The public is invited to attend.

A pizza supper will be provided following the community forum.

The second half of the evening, a concert by Ryan Holliday, will be sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He will perform from 7 to 8 p.m.

He also will give presentations to students throughout the week, including visits to:
• Northwood High School Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 10:15 a.m.
• Northwood Middle School Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m.
• Bowling Green High School Thursday, Nov. 19 at 8:30 a.m.
• All Saints Middle School Thursday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m.

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