Maybe it was Victor Palomares’ special superhero handshake. Or his style—encouraging teens to dream up moves such as crouching and shaking hands that they willingly shared with others at their tables. Or the self-deprecating humor that Palomares revealed. In any case, he’s a favorite with teenagers, including an audience of young people attending a conference introducing them to the book Success for Teens: Real Teens Talk About Using the Slight Edge.
Palomares, a Los Angeles teacher, moonlights as a motivational speaker; he specializes in talks for kids. Recently he was in Grapevine, Texas, addressing a ballroom filled with teenagers. Each received the SUCCESS for Teens book, which is the backbone of the SUCCESS Foundation’s SUCCESS for Teens life-lessons program. Palomares’ revelations about his own challenges parallel those of the kids who tell their stories in the book.
“When I was in elementary school, it was very difficult,” he says. “My father went to Mexico and never came back…. You lose somebody in your life, and there is just kind of this emptiness….
“I’m here to honor you guys. I’ve traveled nationwide, talking to superstuds like you about a lot of these things that Jeff Olson talks about in SUCCESS for Teens. I didn’t get that book until about 4½ years ago, but after I read that, it blew my mind because of how simple success really is.” The main thrust of the program is the power of setting goals, planning your path toward them and taking that path one step at a time.
As the audience warms up, Palomares demonstrates his complicated, multistep handshake, and he gets the audience to practice it. Then he chooses a boy to join him onstage and do the superhero-style handshake. But first he has the boy don a Superman shirt.
It’s all a preamble to his presentation, which stresses the principle of taking small steps. Palomares talks about focusing on improving by 1 percent every day, in sports (he once aimed for a position in a Major League Baseball lineup) and in life. He easily finds common ground with his audience.
Palomares emphasizes positivity and potential in his energetic presentation: “Write something you’re going to do today to make you a superhero,” he challenges.
“How many of you have a hard time talking to somebody? How many of you talk to yourself all day? Imagine if you were your own best friend.” Just like that, he reveals the power of positive self-talk. “Take a stand for yourself. Some of you are so hard on yourselves.”
It was a message that 18-year-old Jessica R. Guevara of Sugar Land, Texas, enjoyed. “Mr. Victor was very funny and grabbed my attention from the start. I loved the Superman outfit and the tips he put on the whiteboard. I thought his message was encouraging, and I learned a lot about attitudes and making new friends. I’ve been reading the book since the conference.”
If you’re curious about the book, you can read it, listen to it or order a paperback copy at SUCCESSFoundation.org. Schools and nonprofit organizations wishing to use the program may request free copies of the SUCCESS for Teens book and accompanying leader’s guide on the website.
Contact the SUCCESS Foundation at [email protected] for more information about the SUCCESS for Teens program or to make a tax-deductible contribution to it. If you are a leader using the program or a donor, email the foundation to be profiled in a future column.