MTV figure gives words of wisdom

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— Gasps filled an auditorium full of Hayden High School and Hayden Middle School students when guest speaker Jeff Yalden tore a $100 bill in half.

Yalden also stomped on it and crumbled it to illustrate a point: No matter how much hardship or teasing students endure, their value stays the same.

Heavyset and boisterous, Yalden kept students engaged for three hours Friday with humorous and serious personal stories and advice for getting through school and life with their heads held high.

Yalden is a life coach -- Hayden counselor Danica Moss likens him to "Dr. Phil for kids" -- who speaks at school assemblies and conferences throughout the U.S.

He recently signed a contract with the MTV show, "Made," in which students challenge their own personal boundaries to become cheerleaders, skateboarders, actors and other dream figures.

Senior Alicia Hall was skeptical about the assembly -- when students heard Yalden was from MTV, some figured it was a guise to get students to come to the event, she said.

About halfway through Yald--en's talk, Hall changed her mind.

"He's really funny," she said.

A resounding theme in Yalden's talk was self-acceptance and how it can help students rise above common pressures such as drugs, alcohol and bullying.

Yalden avoided a lecture-tone by mixing his advice with stories from his own life.

One story involved Yalden as an adult attending a party with close friends from high school. As a designated driver, he had to kick his friends out of his car when they insisted on drinking and doing drugs -- situations that could have gotten him into trouble.

He hasn't talked to those friends since that night.

"As a result of letting go of those influences, I became a better husband, a better dad, a better person," Yalden said. "Sometimes in life we have to have the moral courage to change our friends."

He used a cup of water to describe how the people contribute or deplete our lives: Surrounding yourself with the wrong people leads to trouble and an empty cup -- a wake-up call for several students sitting in the front row, who ended up a bit wet.

Yalden also challenged students to live "in purpose," staying on track with their goals and putting their best efforts into everything.

"Every day, you've got to wake up and strive to be in purpose," he said.

Yalden's appearance is part of the schools' efforts to help students stay positive and make good choices, Moss said.

Student Council, local businesses and Grand Futures Prevention Coalitions -- a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy youth lifestyles -- helped pay for Yalden's appearance.

"Kids are kids," Moss said. "They want something exciting and different."

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