Living the dream
Three friends toured Bermuda schools hoping to inspire young people to dream big.
After six weeks, Hannah Eggen, Gianluca Gibbons and Denzil Nelson were just as inspired as the 800 students they spoke with.
Budding cardiac surgeons, singers, footballers and piano players told them about their dreams.
“I learnt that Bermuda's future is very bright,” said Hannah, a Bermudian musician, living in California. “These kids have some big dreams and they're going to take Bermuda to some amazing places.”
In his spare time, her music partner Gianluca is a motivational speaker in the US. He came up with the idea of visiting as many schools as possible while on break from their LA-based Heritage Band.
“He has worked with all sorts of people all over the United States, and has even been down to Mexico,” said Hannah. “We came home for the holidays and after the new year we started talking. He wanted to do something with the Bermuda community. He already had the motivational material through his brand Mr Life Stylist.”
They chose to work with young people, thinking they needed some encouragement.
“We had people who motivated and pushed us when we were kids — our families and our teachers,” said Hannah. “We knew there were kids out there who needed motivation just like we once did.
“Children in Bermuda need to know they are not stuck on a paradise of an island. They can use their gifts and talents to not only help Bermuda, but also, the world.”
They sought Denzil's help because of his experience in organising Wine Down Wednesday, a networking opportunity for young professionals.
“We thought he'd be a good example of someone who has stayed in Bermuda and been successful,” said Hannah, who attended CedarBridge Academy with the Total Pro chief executive.
The trio quickly put together lectures: Gianluca spoke on dreaming big; Hannah on knowing your purpose; Denzil on self-confidence.
“We met at Denzil's house and went over our speeches and then we called schools and asked if they were interested,” Hannah said. “They were extremely accommodating. I don't know if Bermudians call often asking to come in and motivate students.”
Her alma mater, CedarBridge Academy, was the first in their journey of nine schools. The talk was a hit.
“Giving the talk, I was really nervous at first,” she said. “Then I saw all my old teachers and I realised I was at home. I understood how the students thought.
“The three of us are 27, and I knew they'd be looking at us as people not much older than themselves.”
She shared success stories such as touring with music legend Wyclef Jean at 21 and also her failures. She still remembers being booed off the stage when she was 8, at her first music performance.
“The audience wanted the latest dance music and I was playing classical piano,” Hannah said. “My mother, Scherrie Golden, said, ‘How dare you cry because you are not accepted for what your passions are'.
“She really encouraged me and wouldn't let me stop playing the piano. Students in Bermuda shouldn't allow anyone to deter them from their dreams based on their ideals.
“You have the power to create your own reality. Priority proceeds purpose. That was my key phrase for them.”
She challenged students to write down their goals and focus on the top five. Most lists included school work and extracurriculars, others “wanted to be better at sports”.
“Students need to keep their eye out for opportunities,” she said. “Try different things. You never know what you'll be good at.
“Don't focus on one thing; there is so much potential to unleash.”
Gianluca, who has already returned to LA, shared how his family moved to Cameroon so his father, Sydney Gibbons, could work as a missionary.
“One day he told his father he wanted to build a pirate ship,” Hannah said. “His father didn't try to discourage him. He just said, ‘You're going to need some wood'. Then when he brought back three pieces of wood, his father said, ‘You're going to need a bit more than that'. He talked about how his father encouraged him to dream big. Gianluca encouraged the kids to think about who was in their circle. Was their circle encouraging and motivating them, or holding them back?”
Denzil also held the students' attention, she said.
“He did this exercise where he made them hold their breath. While they were holding their breath, he was telling them it takes everything in your body for you not to breathe. Your body is yearning for air. You have to want success as much as you want to breathe. It was a physical experience which opened up the analogy for them. They were able to put into action right away how much effort they have to give their passions.”
To stay connected with the students, the speakers set up WhatsApp chat groups so they could reach out whenever they were in need of advice.
“We definitely want to continue visiting schools when we return to Bermuda,” Hannah said.
“Now we are thinking about how we can showcase the talents of some of the students we met.”
The experience confirmed something she had always suspected. “We have such bright and unpolished beautiful gems in Bermuda,” she said.