On Thursday, February 4, Milford High School (MHS) welcomed incoming freshmen and their parents for their Annual Freshman Expo. At the event, students could learn more about the programs offered at Milford High School as well as gain information about the various clubs and organizations available to students.
The program began with a special presentation by the MHS Drama Club who performed the song Trouble from the upcoming spring musical The Music Man. Students from Banneker, Milford Central Academy and Milford High School performed the song under the direction of Carissa Meiklejohn who advises the club. Dr. Kelly Green, Principal of MHS, told those in attendance that they were the largest freshman class in district history.
“I graduated from Milford High School in 2004 and what I learned here contributed to my success in business today,” said Hunter Emory, a member of the Milford School District Board of Education whose insurance office sponsored the expo. “I learned how to overcome obstacles at Milford and I know the staff here will prepare you for success down the road. You will be able to take the steps you need to achieve your dreams just as I did while I was here.”
Mayor Bryan Shupe, who graduated from Milford High School in 2002, agreed with Mr. Emory’s sentiments as he introduced, Vince Papale, the guest speaker for the evening whose entrance into the NFL was featured in the movie Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg. Mayor Shupe said that his time at Milford gave him the foundation to not only make decisions on his own, but to make the right decisions that have allowed him and his wife to open several Milford businesses. He introduced Mr. Papale as someone who embodied the Milford spirit and encouraged those in the audience to listen to his inspirational story of achieving a dream against the odds.
In 1976, Mr. Papale was 30 years old, working as a teacher at his high school alma mater and part-time bartender. Growing up in Philadelphia as an avid Eagles fan, he decided to try out for the team when the Eagles announced that they were allowing fans to attend spring training, allowing individuals a chance to become an NFL player. Mr. Papale decided to live a quote he heard often from his high school coach, “Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make those dreams come true.”
“I was told it would never happen,” Mr. Papale said of his try out with the team. “I was not supposed to ever be an NFL player. I was raised in a housing project, never really played organized football, just backyard stuff with my friends. I was a track guy and no one thought I had the ability to be an NFL player. But, I was determined and I proved them all wrong.” Mr. Papale holds the record as the oldest rookie other than kickers in the NFL and was the first of only three players to be signed to an NFL team as a walk-on. He had never played college football and only played two years of high school football.
Mr. Papale told students and parents that there were always going to be dream killers in life, pointing out that bullying was a tactic of these dream killers. He said that insecurities in others often led to jealousy which could lead to bullying and that students should do anything they could to avoid that. He said that he heard his entire life that he could not do things and when he did try out for the NFL, he was given many reasons why he could not succeed.
“I was told I could get hurt, that I was a track guy, that I didn’t play college ball,” he said. “My response was that I could get hurt in any job I decided to do. That, as a track guy, I could apply the skills I used in track to football very easily and that playing college ball didn’t really matter if I understood the game. I knew that if I had the mind, body, spirit and synergy necessary to succeed that I would.”
Mr. Papale told students that he would not have succeeded had he not had excellent mentors behind him. He told them that his mother became mentally ill and was institutionalized when he was very young. His mother’s illness took a toll on his father causing distance between the two men. This meant that Mr. Papale relied on coaches and teachers to guide him toward his dreams. He was very close to his high school coach who encouraged him to go to college, which he did under a track scholarship.
“Potential is one of the great wastes in this country,” Mr. Papale said. “Too often, we waste our potential because we listen to the dream killers. Your potential is something within you that you have not done yet. I am proof positive that it is never too late to get in the game.”
Mr. Papale said that students needed to create their own Buccaneer Playbook that they could follow throughout their high school career. He said they should make an impact by focusing on what they could do to make the community and the world better. He also pointed out that with today’s technology, people tended to forget the fundamentals, but it was important not to do that to succeed. He encouraged the students to take a risk and, even if they did fail, to learn from those failures in order to move forward.
“You need to be accountable for your own actions and you need to embrace challenges, not run from them,” Mr. Papale said. “One thing I learned in the NFL is that you put the team first and then think about you. The same is true in life. If the team, your school, your company succeeds then you succeed as well. You need to go above and beyond. By following this advice and creating your Buccaneer Playbook, you will succeed in life and soar past those dream killers.”