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State Honoree

Marcus Houston

Colorado

developed an educational program called “Just Say Know” that teaches middle level students what it takes to achieve academic, social and athletic success in high school. Marcus, a star student and football player at his school, was troubled by the number of freshmen in his school district who were ineligible for sports due to poor grades or conduct problems. He looked back on his achievements and thought about how he had become successful, and then prepared a 45-minute oral presentation on the subject, which he has since delivered to more than 800 middle level students. Marcus stresses the importance of values and goals, and tells his audiences that the way they dress, talk and act often determine what teachers expect of them – and what they expect from themselves. His program strives to dispel the notion that academic and social underachievement should be a bond of honor among inner-city youth, and urges young people to “reach for opportunities instead of excuses.” In addition to his motivational talk, Marcus developed an essay contest in which students can win a $50 scholarship and a pizza party – funded out of his own pocket – by describing their plans for success. Now in its third year, “Just Say Know” is attracting financial support from individuals and local organizations, and is set to expand nationally, according to Marcus. “Success is not an accident,” he said. “It’s something you work hard to achieve.”