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Horizon challenge accepted: Be Better, Do Better.

  • Climate & Culture
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Horizon challenge accepted: Be Better, Do Better.

Horizon High School students answer the call to take positive school culture to the next level
Motivational speaker Kevin Atlas shares personal story that inspires everyone to be better, do better


Horizon High School leadership took a chance earlier this month when they invited Kevin Atlas to speak to the student body about the incredible power of believing in yourself, despite the challenges and trials that life may present. For the first time in more than 10 years, the school hosted an all-school assembly.

“Our administrative team agreed that our students needed something different than what we’ve done in years past, as our students are still navigating school and life after a pandemic,” Principal Erica Fleeman said. “Kevin’s message of empathy, love, support and encouragement was something we wanted our students to hear.”

Speaker talks with the HHS school body

At 6 feet 11 inches, Atlas was ever-present as he took to the center circle of Horizon’s gym, a familiar place for this former NCAA Division I and pro basketball player. Atlas experienced his share of adversity early in life. He was born with his left arm discontinued just below his elbow. He grew up in a split custody household, overcame the early death of his father and faced a host of critics prior to his success.

“I really wasn’t set up with the opportunity to succeed,” Atlas said. “Whether it be a coach, whether it be a teacher, somebody that not only believes in you, but really pushes you to be better than you thought you could be, changes the game.”

My mission here today is to learn about their issues and consult them on how to resolve them, and challenge the kids to be better than they are; completely changing their perspective on empathy and kindness and loving each other.”

Atlas wasted no time in “calling up” Horizon’s student leaders and challenging them to be better and do better. He asked the football team how often the band came to their games. The response was every game. Then he asked how often the football team attended a band performance.

“He taught me that it’s okay for people to learn from nice criticism,” said Landen Loomis, senior and football team member. “Definitely want to start having football at band concerts and every single other sport to show other students support.”

“I think Kevin made a great point by saying that we expect other people to be there for us, but we don’t give that same love back to them,” said Marisol Miranda, junior and softball team member. “I plan to make sure that my teams support other sports and clubs, in order to create a better family atmosphere around the school.”

“Today lives on,” said Atlas. “We create a new standard of what it means to go to this school. They take ownership; this is our school.”

Larger view of the Horizon assembly

Beyond the all-school assembly, Atlas spent the entire day at Horizon meeting with different student leadership groups and staff members. The goal… create a plan for sustained change.

“I really needed a reminder to not get comfortable and that I need to put effort in everything I do and start new habits,” Senior Emma Kruger said. “When I wake up every day I remind myself it takes 21 days to make a habit and there is no perfect day to start it, just now. I also feel like I can start new legacies to make my school atmosphere better even if I won’t personally experience it next year.”

“With my involvement in our school’s art program, Kevin asked some students to come together after his talk with leadership and see if there was a way to physically improve the aesthetic of our school,” Senior Harrison Cramer said. “I think that I could take up an art project with other students to create a commemorative mural celebrating each student’s impact on the school.”

Atlas has teamed up with Varsity Brands to offer any school his Believe in You® series free of charge. Hosted by Atlas, the series stars personalities from around the country who have overcome personal challenges to accomplish the extraordinary.

Horizon Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Marty Tonjes arranged for Atlas to visit Horizon after he heard him speak at the annual Colorado Athletics Directors Association conference.

“I hope that Kevin’s message of love, kindness and empathy are passed on to our students for years to come,” Tonjes said. The Horizon community is great and Kevin’s message will only make us stronger.”


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