Motivational speaker blends comedy, motivation in show |

Motivational speaker blends comedy, motivation in show

When Yalden yells, teens hear

Zach Fridell

When Jeff Yalden talks to students, he does it in an imitation of teenage style that leaves the 37-year-old former Marine acting the part of his 17-year-old daughter.

Strutting across a stage Thursday in Hayden, that style was on full display as the nationwide motivational speaker became a one-man sitcom. Yalden’s mix of humor and drama captivated Hayden middle and high school students as he urged them to “Take Time To Think” – his slogan and speech title.

Yalden, a favorite at Hayden High School, has spoken to the students three times in the past five years, delivering a mix of shouting, acting, comedy and earnestness.

“My life isn’t about happiness,” he told the students Thursday morning. “My life is about righteousness.”

Even so, Yalden’s method was not to preach at the students, but to relate to them using earnest stories, slang and comedy.

“Is it just me, or are many young people today stuck on stupid?” he asked the crowd.

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He later urged the students to take stock of their friends and priorities, saying, “If you surround yourself with a dumb-dumb, you’re going to be a dumb-dumb.”

That type of irreverence is part of why the Hayden students repeatedly ask Yalden to return to their school, said school principal Troy Zabel.

“The kids really connect with him,” Zabel said. “He’s the best speaker we’ve had, by far.”

The Peer Helpers club asked Yalden to return this year to kick off Red Ribbon Week, a weeklong anti-drug campaign in the school. Throughout the next week, students will be asked to sign a pledge not to use drugs.

As a part of his talk, Yalden said both of his parents were alcoholics and told students how alcohol-use can cause pain in families.

Michelle Henderson, leader of Peer Helpers, said Yalden’s name was repeatedly mentioned when students discussed possible speakers because of the influence he had in previous visits. Several local businesses and donors contributed to bring Yalden back to the school, Henderson said.

“It’s really about making healthy choices and (Yalden) puts it in a kind of perspective they understand,” she said.

Yalden travels around the country and has written several books for teens in which he urges them to “take time to think.” He has appeared on the MTV show “Made” and produces T-shirts and wristbands.

Yalden also spoke in Meeker on Thursday before flying out of state.