Jean Clervil, Keynote Speaker

As an inspirer, Jean has motivated many to find out exactly what they want to do for a living; especially students through his poetry, inspirational stories, and successful strategies. Having overcome his internal battles with fear and pressure to succeed as a college student, Jean used his imagination to create a career for himself. Jean’s gifts made room for him as he published two books while in college along with taking social media by storm with his influential quotes. His keynotes and strategies have not only left students inspired but motivated to take action toward the career of their dreams. Jean changes lives by showing audiences across the globe how they are an idea away from being a success story.


“Emotions are what makes us human. Make us real. The word ‘emotion’ stands for energy in motion. Be truthful about your emotions, and use your mind and emotions in your favor, not against yourself.” This is a quote from Robert Kiyosaki that I stumbled upon shortly after my senior year in high school. Here I am, a 17-year-old, trying to understand how the culmination of my emotions is guiding me…or misguiding me. Every day of my senior year, I felt burdened with decision fatigue accompanied by emotions that could either make me quit or persevere. Carrying the weight of the expectations from my mother, my school and even my friends was burdensome and difficult. And here’s the thing…EVERY student (and person) is dealing with problems and obstacles in and out of the classroom. How do we deal with those problems? How do we empower our students while the outside (and inside) noise is trying to limit them? We begin by asking the right question(s). We begin by effectively showing them how much we care. From my experience, one thing is for certain…a student will not care to listen to you until the student believes that you care about them.

I’m not going to lie to you. I had no idea what SEL truly was until I was deep into my professional speaking career. I just thought it was another buzzword that people were abusing. It wasn’t until teachers and administrators educated me on how I was already using SEL in my keynote speeches that I began paying attention. It’s not like I was given a PowerPoint about SEL growing up, but what I did realize is that the faculty members that I have the closest relationships with…used SEL to increase my own self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief that you have what it takes to make things happen. I already had feelings of doubt and unworthiness, so when someone else took a genuine interest in my progress…it changed everything.

Now what is SEL? SEL stands for social and emotional learning. Although there are many definitions, the best way that I can put it is this…it’s the process of mastering our emotions to better support each other (relationships) and ourselves (goals). How you feel emotionally dictates what you do physically. When I was consumed with doubt and unworthiness, I did not care to do much. I was afraid to move forward. Confidence and learning are deeply connected. When a student feels as though that they can do something, they will at least try. Trying is one of the most important things a student can do.

Now you’re probably wondering what is the question that increases the social and emotional learning of your students. It is simple, the question is WHY? I always assumed that whatever a faculty member told me to do was because they were paid to do so. The first time a counselor asked me why I wanted to be successful, I felt seen. Not only did I feel seen, but I took a creative writing class as an elective because writing was a passionate hobby of mine. Little did I know that writing would not only be my career but also open doors for me that I couldn’t dare envision. A student is their most vulnerable when they first discover something they’re passionate about. SEL is about how we feel emotionally and how we in turn act on that emotion. If a student is not motivated, they will not move. When a student is inspired, their entire demeanor changes.

I strategically ask students (and faculty) to identify their WHY during my keynotes. This empowers them to see themselves in a positive manner in the future while removing limiting barriers that threaten their progress. During one of the breakout sessions last year for NJFEA (New Jersey Future Educator’s Association), a student shared with me how his WHY literally changed the trajectory of his high school career. I stress how one’s WHY has to be personal and bigger than one’s self. His WHY for being successful is his mother (which is actually the same as mine). “A lot of coaches told me that I wasn’t going to achieve my goal in playing lacrosse because of my height, but having my mom on my side believing in me gave me the WHY to push. As a result, this past summer I was recruited by 4 different schools. I felt like I’ve achieved something bigger than myself which was to make my mom proud because she believed in me.” I then asked him how did the support of his mom make him feel. He replied “It made me feel confident in myself. It kept me going to practice 7 days a week.”

When I was in high school, not only did certain faculty members ask me why I wanted to be successful, but they also asked me why do I even show up to school. These were questions that forced me to look and dig deeper within myself. Although I didn’t find the answers I was looking for until years later in college, the fact that I started to look for them beforehand changed everything for me. I went from feeling unworthy and not seen to embarking on a journey of self-discovery with the help of the right people around me. I didn’t personally know any best sellers, but that didn’t stop faculty members from referring a few to me to research. I didn’t know any renowned poets, but that didn’t stop my friends from taking me to open mics that submerged me in the world of expression and transparency. Sometimes, a student just needs to see a glimpse of what’s possible for them not to quit. When a student identifies their why, it better equips them for the journey ahead. Let me be clear, none of this is easy…but the outcome is worth it.

I challenge you to dig deeper and ask your students WHY? WHY do they show up for class? WHY do they do the work when they don’t feel like it? WHY do they want to graduate? WHY do they want to become successful? I always say that the WHY is more important than the HOW. Help your students identify their driving force and you will be better equipped to lead them.

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