Middle School Level UP speaker shares strategies for overcoming stereotypes

Some of the most impactful people throughout history were great speakers, and Theo Wilson is just that—a dynamic presenter! The TEDx speaker, author, and local activist kicked off Colorado Academy‘s first Level UP forum by addressing the topic “Overcoming Stereotypes: The Importance of Being Yourself.” Level UP is the Middle School forum for spotlighting equity and inclusion topics. This year’s theme was selected by the members of the STAMP Club.

“One of the first lessons we should learn in Kindergarten is that words have magic,” he shared. “Words are like tumblers in a universal lock. Use the right combination and you can unlock anything you want.”

Theo shared his journey of growing up in Denver and what it was like to be diagnosed with depression in middle school. His father, a Vietnam veteran who also had a captivating presence, encouraged him to use writing as a tool for tapping into his feelings. Words gave him the ability to not only be in tune with himself but to connect with other people.

He spoke of the environmental factors he had to overcome as an African American living in Park Hill during the ’90s. Theo shared a fond memory of his father, who was his role model for not succumbing to stereotypes. His father taught him that stereotypes and assumptions do exist, but we have a unique opportunity each time to decide how we’ll respond in those moments. “Evil never wins unless we help it,” Theo told the students. It is in those moments that we can choose to look beyond our differences and meet one another at a human level. “It’s like flipping the stereotype on its head,” he said. “When we find the words to bridge the gap, we’re hacking the program that people have that causes them to have stereotypes.” Students expressed that his story revealed that you can use the stereotypes around you to your advantage, instead of letting them bring you down.

Theo didn’t let the day end before he wowed Middle School with his poetic expression. Many students described his poetry as the highlight of their day, and some took notes on how they could enhance their writing. His poetry truly solidified the theme of his message: “The most important conversation that you’ll have is with yourself.” Through the magic of our words, “we too can change a life in four minutes or less through the use of a pen.”