Terrence Lee Talley had Colorado Academy students of all ages singing, laughing, dancing, hugging, and even crying, during assemblies for each division on September 20, 2022. A school speaker who shares his message of hope, resilience, and compassion with 150,000 young people each year, Talley used upbeat music, hilarious comedy, and moving personal stories to urge students, “Don’t give up,” and to remind them, “You are not alone.”
Talley kicked off the assemblies by enlisting the help of students to “volunteer” their teachers to come to the stage, where he had them show off a few dance moves to riotous laughter and applause. Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School teachers all gamely played along. Next Talley got everyone involved with a sing-along to hits like “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus.
With the audience thoroughly pumped up, Talley dived into storytelling. “For these past two-and-a-half years, it’s been really hard for a lot of people. Some of you may have felt like you were by yourself. Maybe even now, some of you feel like nobody understands what you’re going through. But I am here to tell you someone cares about you.”
Recounting one story of outrunning his older brother in a footrace, and another of helping to reconnect two siblings after a school assembly in Minnesota, Talley urged listeners to turn to those people around them—both classmates and teachers—who are rooting for them. “When we have empathy for people, that does not mean we pity them, it does not mean we look down on them. All it means is, ‘I’m here with you. If you hurt, I’m going to share in your hurt because I care about you.’”
Talley had the audience on the edge of their seats as he shared more of his school experiences. One girl he met kept her mother’s used tissue in her pocket just to feel a loving connection, and a troubled boy came out of his shell when his classmates hugged him to show him they cared about him. “You may not realize it, but everybody has a story.”
Talley brought the assemblies to a close by inviting students and teachers to share a hug. “Just remember: you matter,” he said.