Guest speaker urges VC students to live college life in the front row

Jon Vroman

“Why are you pursuing college?”

That’s the point-blank question addressed to new Victoria College students by guest speaker Jon Vroman in a fast-paced, audience participation event.

Achieving life’s biggest goals and dreams really comes down to the reason for doing it, Vroman said. He offered five points of advice to students on how they can be “Living College Life in the Front Row.” He shared his thoughts on the final day of Pirate Orientation, a weeklong event designed to enroll incoming freshmen and help prepare them for success in their academic endeavors.

Vroman is cofounder of the Front Row Foundation, an organization that helps individuals and families who are braving critical health challenges “live life in the front row.” The energetic speaker admitted that he didn’t always live the message he now shares.

As a high school student, Vroman was 4’10” and weighed 85 pounds.

“I was terrified of people; walked around with my head down,” he said. “I never got involved. I would sit in the very back row and lived that way for a long time.”

His experience changed during a music concert when he witnessed college girls having the time of their lives in the front row. For those in the back row, it was a different experience. People were on their cellphones and talking; the energy was different.

“I was in the back, looking to front and saw all this energy and thought to myself: ‘I’ve been a spectator watching this whole thing go by,’” Vroman said. “I decided that day to live my life in the front row – in everything I did. I decided to change the way I did things.”

He interviewed hundreds of college graduates, and found five simple things in common with his interview subjects:

Treat everyone you meet like a rock star. “How many times in our lives do we walk by brilliant people, amazing individuals we judge because of what they’re wearing, how they look, how old they are?” he asked the crowd of new VC students and family members. “Find the rock star in people. What would it be like if, with everybody you met, you shook their hand and greeted them like you worshipped the ground they walked on? Would they respond differently to you if you did that?”

You create your own reality. He had the audience stand up and hug at least two people (“Nobody gets away without a hug.”) Attendees admitted that their energy levels were higher after the hugs.

Addressing those uncomfortable with hugging strangers, he said, “You have to act your way into feeling. Successful people taught me that you don’t run because you have energy, you have energy because you run. When you create something, it’s hard at the beginning.”

Keeping energy levels high, Vroman asked his audience to give high-fives and compliments to those seated nearby.

Be open to change. “Change is difficult,” he said. “What’s good for you isn’t always easy going down. Sometimes, you might think, ‘I’m in a class and I don’t understand what’s going on so I must be in the wrong class.’  Or ‘I’m doing this thing and my muscles are sore so I shouldn’t be doing this thing.’ That uncomfortable feeling means you are exactly where you should be. That’s how you learn.”

Have goals and dreams. When encouraged to run in a friend’s double marathon of 53 miles, Vroman discovered “if your ‘why’ has heart, your ‘how’ gets legs. You’ll always find a way.”

“Why are you pursuing college?” he asked the new VC students. “If you don’t have a strong enough reason to do it, then everything’s going to be difficult and you won’t make it through. If you can tap into the benefits, the pain and pleasure, the basic psychology of what you get from this, you’ll do it.”

Give back. Life is built on giving, Vroman said, adding that, “if you show up and give 100 percent, and I show up and give 100, then we have something great.”

“You can’t always choose your seat but you can always choose how you participate,” he added. “That’s what I want for all of you: to choose to play the game, to participant and not be a spectator.”

He invited the audience to play the biggest game that they were born to play in life – whatever that is.

“Find your unique talents and share it with the world,” Vroman said. “Go do your thing in life and be the best you can.”

Matt Wiley, VC’s Quality Enhancement Plan director, said Vroman was invited because he shares a strong message of being proactive and challenging oneself to do something out of the comfort zone.

“Victoria College is embracing a culture of active learning through SEAL the DEAL,” Wiley said. “This was a dynamic way to drive home the message we started during Pirate Orientation that students must get engaged in their own learning in order to be successful.”

Picking up that message was incoming VC freshman Leslie Ann Alvarez who found Vroman’s speech to be exciting and motivating.

“I learned ‘don’t be scared; to ask questions.’” Alvarez said of his talk. “Our instructors are there to help us every day, even at night. The main message I got was to live life to the fullest – in the front row. That’s what I’m doing.”

“It gave me a different perspective on how I should act as a college student and how I should take life events,” Alvarez added. “There’s going be ups and down, of course. We just overcome them each day, little by little, with happiness in between.”

Published: Friday, 19 September 2014

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