Falcon Forum keynote speaker Brandon McCall discusses leadership skills, any given day

(left to right) SOPHOMORE SAMANTHA RADFORD, junior Bailey Gray, senior Sarah Isefjaer, and keynote speaker Brandon McCall take a selfie after the Falcon Forum/Leadership Summit. “Loved my time there and can’t wait to come back,” McCall said. (Samantha Radford)

At the school’s annual Falcon Forum/Leadership Summit, keynote speaker and motivational orator Brandon McCall spoke on the importance of leadership skills in relation to this year’s overarching theme: perseverance.

The Leadership Summit is exactly what it sounds like; a forum for leaders from around the school’s clubs, honor societies, activities, and sports.  In order for students to attend, they had to first be invited by a teacher, sponsor, or coach who sees each student as a leader in their own right.

And, in a room full of ‘leaders’ it seemed only fitting that McCall not only spoke about leadership and its importance, but also about perseverance through challenge and struggle.

According to McCall, his life hasn’t been easy. He grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, in a family who had a tough time making ends meet. Many people around him, including his own family members had been in some sort of trouble, are or had been incarcerated, and like many teens, he struggled to fit in.

One such struggle was when his brother got into some serious trouble that would change his family’s life forever.  As a result, McCall had to leave school for a month and was homeschooled and isolated, before he was allowed to return

As the years passed, his life was still a struggle. McCall’s mother needed heart surgery and several of his close friends passed away.  McCall had to cancel his speaking engagements for a time to become others’ support systems.

In order to keep in touch with those who followed him, he shared these troubles on his Instagram, mostly for people who were also searching for support.  And through Instagram, he was able to connect with those who needed him, as well as connect with those who supported him.

Despite his life struggles, McCall has chosen to help others cope with their individual troubles and help those who have felt excluded, find a place in their school.

He has been acting as a motivational speaker since 2017 and according to McCall, this year alone he has visited 40 schools to ‘build a generation of leaders and encourage [them] to continue to move forwards towards success.’

During the summit, McCall showed leaders from a variety of clubs and teams at CHS videos of students around the world who struggled with relationships, exclusion, and were ridiculed in school in an effort to broadcast that students, whether around the world or nearby, go through struggles, some of which people know nothing about.

An acronym McCall has adopted is A.C.T., which stands for “Act with Compassion Today”, making it clear that one path he strongly believes leaders should follow is A.C.T. In other words, the acronym should remind people to be kind to others and make them feel welcome as no one knows what’s happening “behind the curtain.”

To emphasize the importance of using this acronym daily, he had students “lock arms” in groups of a specific number of his choosing, to demonstrate leadership skills such as compassion and inclusivity. When students were left unable to join a group or were “sacrificed” in an effort to win the game, they were sent to” the pit”, also known as the school’s orchestra section. This place was meant to represent excluded students and how they felt.

According to McCall, those in the pit were the “real winners” even though they were kicked out of groups.

He also allowed brave students to share some of the struggles they went through. This allowed the listeners to not only learn more about their fellow schoolmates but to also let the volunteers’ challenges become everyone’s.

Additionally, to show the difference between an actual problem and a challenge, he had students vote on which was easier to solve. When the vote ended in a tie, he called a debate in which two students with different views “pleaded their case”. Junior Will Slevin and sophomore Blake Heselius were the representatives for this debate. After both plead their individuals case and reasons for their decision, they left the stage and McCall gave his viewpoint.

He believed that although easier to solve problems, the process of doing so was the hardest part and that challenges were something that could be fixed as a group, compared to solving it alone, thus making it easier.

Overall, the last meeting of the Falcon Forum showed a large turnout of leaders and was seemingly a huge success.

“It was a cool experience. I appreciated how he involved the audience and kept everyone engaged. He also emphasized how there is so much going on in other students’ lives that we have no idea about,” junior Bailey Gray said.

Aside from being a motivational speaker, McCall is also a partner of Teen Truth, an organization founded in 2006 by JC Pohl that focuses on building “school culture and empower[ing] student voice”.

Upon ending his discussion, McCall said his final piece of advice to upcoming freshmen and the school as a whole.

“I think throughout my entire life, I realized that the most important thing is to listen. Listen to your teachers, even if you don’t like them. Listen to your parents, the good and the bad. And ultimately, you will grow into the person that you want to be,” McCall said.

After the forum came to a close, the key speaker and invitees headed to the library for lunch and pictures and were able to interact with one another.