When motivational speaker Tyler Presnell took the stage Thursday for the assembly at , his limp was noticeable but no one could tell he has more than 16 feet of scars on his body.
The 27-year-old Presnell walks with a limp because his right leg is completely paralyzed. He told the students, teachers, faculty and media in attendance that he won't remember a single person on Friday that he met during Thursday’s event because of a traumatic brain injury.
When Presnell was 14 years old, the car he was riding in—driven by one of his best friends who had only had his license for a few weeks—slammed into a telephone pole going more than 70 mph.
“You have no idea how much this hurts me every single day,” Presnell said. “There’s nothing worse than not remembering your life.”
with the help of the Chesapeake Business Advisory Board (CBAB), and the schools Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group. The purpose of the assembly was to remind students to think twice about their actions behind the wheel.
As a recent college graduate, and not too far removed from high school, I remember these kinds of presentations when I was a senior in high school. Only we had a stern-looking police officer showing graphic photos—nothing like Presnell.
Presnell’s message was perfectly clear. Between his jokes, narrative raps, use of the word “homey” and blunt statements, Presnell presented a flawless message as someone who related well to teens.
“Kids think racing around parking lots is cool. I don’t get it,” Presnell said. “It makes you look weird. It is a parking lot; what are you doing? What you are doing is proving that you are 16 years old.”
One of Presnell’s most passionate issues is kids not wearing seat belts. He frequently mentioned the fact that more kids die in traffic accidents than adults because they aren’t wearing a simple seat belt.
“It’s not uncool to wear a seat belt,” he said. “It’s like two inches and the only person who knows you’re wearing it is you.”
Presnell also talked a lot about the struggles he has with his own self-esteem. After undergoing 22 surgeries, he has scars all over his body. He talked about how everyone treated him like an outcast, ignored him and made him suicidal.
He used to leave notes around his home that said “you’re funny,” “you’re handsome” and “you’re beautiful,” just to remind himself he had a life worth living. And Presnell reminded 1,600 high school students that image isn’t everything.
“You’ve got to respect your life or you’ll get walked on in a second-flat,” he said.
“Ladies ditch a guy who is driving fast, because he has no respect for you,” Presnell added.
Presnell’s presentation was engaging. It had students laughing, talking and applauding at will. SADD adviser and CHS teacher Jennifer Bender said she thought the presentation was a great success.
“I think he did such a fantastic job. He was brutally real,” Bender said. “We have lost three students during the school year already. If because of this assembly one more kid is OK, if it means one more funeral I don’t have to go to this year, then we have done something good.”
What is most inspiring about Presnell is that he is surprisingly optimistic about his future despite the 22 surgeries, the fact he had to relearn how to walk, how to talk and who his family was. And he is extremely passionate about spreading a message to help others.
“Life is too short. And you never know what you have until it’s gone,” Presnell said at the end of his presentation. “Car crashes affect every single one of us. When will we learn?”