Archive for the ‘Radio Interviews’ Category

Episode 7: Josh Ochs, Keeping Teens Safe on Social Media

Prepped & Polished Interview with Teen Social Media Safety Expert Josh Ochs

On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, I interview Josh Ochs, best-selling author of “Light, Bright, and Polite”. Josh lectures social media safety to schools, parents, and teens nation-wide.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Josh graduated from the University of Southern California; He is the author of the bestselling book “Light, Bright And Polite” & public speaker teaching families to be safe online and combat cyber bullying. Josh lives in Santa Monica, California.

For more information, click on our other article, Social Media and College Admissions.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Announcer: Recorded live.

Alexis: Hello and thanks for joining us for the Prepped and Polished
Radio Show. I’m your host, Alexis Avila, licensed guidance
counselor, private tutor and founder of Prepped and Polished
LLC, Tutoring and Test Prep in beautiful South Natick,

The Prepped and Polished Radio Show is your educational insider. Our
show is brought to you by Prepped and Polished LLC, where I’m
the principal educator. To learn more about our firm, please

Thank you to everyone who’s listening to the program. We appreciate
you taking the interest and the information we bring to families
and educators across the globe. For future shows, upcoming dates
and ongoing relevant education news, please join our Facebook
community by searching for Prepped and Polished and clicking
Like, and you can follow us on Twitter, @Preppedpolished.

Joining our show today is Josh Ochs. Josh is an
bestselling author of “Light, Bright and Polite”, a social media
safety and training book for corporations, schools, parents and
teens. Josh lectures nationwide teaching families and students
to be safe online and combat cyber bullying.

As a student at Arcadia High School, Josh was voted Most Friendliest
out of almost 1,000 students in his senior class. Josh graduated
from University of Southern California, and after living in
Hermosa Beach for several years, in May 2009 Josh ran for
Hermosa Beach City Council. He was the youngest person on the

We’re delighted to have Josh on our show today. He’s going to share
with us his experiences becoming an expert on social media
safety and give us a few tips along the way about how we can
keep our social media profiles light, bright and polite. Before
we start I just want to make sure our listeners have our contact

Our email address is If you’d like to
submit a question at anytime, you can use that email address.
Often our listeners will have questions as they’re listening or
afterwards. We always appreciate hearing from our listeners, so
you can email us again at Josh,
are you there on the line?

Josh: I am.

Alexis: Thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?

Josh: Hey, I’m well. Thanks for having me. It’s so nice of you,
Alexis. I really appreciate it.

Alexis: Sure. Sure. So, I had a chance to look at what you’re doing
online, your LinkedIn, your Instagram, your Twitter, and I’ve
got to say you have a really great-looking profile. It’s light,
bright and polite, at least to me. Is that your intention?

Josh: Thank you. Yeah. It is, indeed. I believe that if you’re going
to tell people to do something, you better be doing it yourself
and be a good example of it so it’s easier to explain to people.

Alexis: Definitely. Absolutely. So why don’t you start us off by
telling us, what does light, bright and polite mean for families
and kids?

Josh: Yeah, great question and I think that’s really the cornerstone
of everything we’re going to talk about today. There are three
things that are most important that tweens and teens need to
think about. Tweens being eight to 12 and teens being 13 to 18.

First, everything that they post on social media, they need to make
sure it’s three things: light, bright and polite. Light means,
make sure it’s positive and it’s fun. It all comes back to, “Is
this something that’s kind? Am I going to say something that’s
nice to others?” and so on, so kind.

Then, bright means, be smart. Think before you tweet, think before
you post this picture on Instagram, “Is this is the right thing
to do?” Then, last and the most important one is polite. Polite
means, are you proud of this when your parents, teachers, your
coach, your principal or dean sees it tomorrow or the next day,
because they will.

Everything on social media eventually does become public, so you have
to ask yourself these three questions, “Is this something that’s
light, bright and polite?” Then, if it is, then feel free to go
ahead and send it.

Alexis: That makes so much sense because everything has repercussions
today. So that’s fantastic. What are the top three ways families
and kids can be safe on social media?

Josh: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I’d say the first and the
biggest way, and this is really a key takeaway is, a lot of
people think that there are privacy settings when you get deep
into the tech and all that stuff. I would like everybody to
think for just a moment, step back for a second and ask
yourself, “Well, do I really need even need to worry about all
this technology and being up late at night worrying about how my
child is posting?”

I teach a lot of tweens, teens, parents and young professionals, if
you live a life that is light, bright and polite and that’s all
you post – and you think before you post anything, and you’re
somewhat kind, smart and polite in all that you do – you won’t
have to worry about any of the technology or any of the changing
privacy settings, or anything else. I think that’s really key
takeaway number one and probably the biggest key takeaway.

Live a life that’s light, bright and polite and then you’re set.
Number two is keep in mind that if you have dramatic friends and
they tag you in something, not only can they get in trouble and
be sent to the school office or detention, but if you’re tagged
in it, there’s a good chance you’re going to be called into the
office as well.

So, be a good friend. Be vocal with your friends and teach them that
they need to be light, bright and polite in social media as
well. Then, the last and I think the biggest tip is, if you ever
get upset about something, call somebody. Call your BFF. Call
your parents. Call your teachers. This is what these people are
there for. Or text them and say, “I want to chat right now.”

Get it over the phone, a one-to-one conversation. Don’t post that on
social media. Call your best friend if you’re upset. Those are
just a couple of the tips. Always keeping it light, bright and
polite, making sure your dramatic friends are always very safe
in what they’re posting and tagging you in, and last if you’re
ever upset or dramatic, just call a best friend instead of

Alexis: Wow. Those tips are invaluable for today’s youth. It’s amazing
what you’re doing. What would you say is the biggest careless
mistake you see kids doing on social media these days?

Josh: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I’d say there’s a lot that
tweens and teens, anywhere between the age of eight to 18 these
days, they really don’t know a time where social media hasn’t
existed in their life. So, if we try and jump into the seat with
them and say, “Let’s walk a mile in their shoes,” a smartphone
is something they’ve grown up with in a way.

So vocalizing their daily activities and their frustrations is
something that every teen and tween feels totally comfortable
doing. So I’d say one of the biggest careless mistakes is… Let
me speak to families and parents for just a moment.

Families and parents, you really need to consider talking with your
teens and tweens about what is good and what is bad to post on
social media. It’s very, very important that they have a clear
understanding of what’s going to work and not. So talk to them
about being light, bright and polite, how to be kind, how to be
smart and especially how to be proud of everything they post.

Talk to them as well about what the consequences will be,
“Consequences look a little something like this.” A big careless
mistake is when you don’t think about the consequences, your
child, your teen or tween can’t get into that perfect school,
that college. Or perhaps they can’t get into the associated
student body as president or they’re not on the varsity football
team. Anything can happen.

Or especially, once they become a young professional they can’t get
that dream internship, which is really big on a start to their
career. So that’s one of the bigger careless mistakes. I
encourage a lot of parents to start having that conversation
with them and teach them, “This is a dramatic post and this is a
good post.” Let kids post, but teach them how to post in a
positive way that’s light, bright and polite.

Alexis: Yeah. That’s a huge tip for these kids. Because in this job
market, why would you want to blow everything away by just
venting your frustrations? That makes so much sense.

Josh: Yeah.

Alexis: So, Josh, what is one tip for any of us who want to make our
online profiles more private or safe?

Josh: Yeah, good question. Very good question. I’m going to answer
that with two parts, Alexis. Number one, I think it’s really
important for people to realize that nothing is private and
safe. So live a life that’s light, bright and polite. You’re
going to be better off in the long run.

I publicize a lot of my stuff because I realize that I have to live
this life. So I make everything light, bright and polite. I have
a lot to say, and have a lot of fun with it. So, it’s a good
example. You guys can go and research and see some of the stuff
I talk about. You can have a lot of fun and still be light,
bright and polite and safe on social media.

So, first you realize that nothing is private. Be light, bright and
polite in all that you do because eventually it will be
publicized. Second, it’s important that you realize that every
post you make eventually will be a billboard, and it will be
found by people that you don’t want to see it – your teachers,
your parents and if you own a company, your clients someday.

Everything is being archived. So even if you are about to graduate
high school and go into college, that college can see everything
that you post. So make sure it’s not too private. Make sure it’s
not too dramatic.

If you look at anything on your Facebook profile – here’s one of the
biggest key takeaways that we’ve had – make sure that you can
use your Facebook profile as a resume to get into college and to
get that internship. It really is important. They’re going to
find it anyways. There are a hundred ways to get access to your
Facebook page.

It will become public. I can’t reiterate enough. “But, Josh, I have
it set to private.” Regardless, we still have a lot of ways, and
admissions officers and people at schools are so good at this.
So you need to make sure you’re proud of every photo on your
Facebook page, your Instagram, every tweet, every snapshot,
because a snapshot lives on past video. When you think it
expires, it actually goes a lot further.

So make sure that you realize nothing is private, and once you
realize that go back to everything you’ve posted and say, “What
should I take down?” A key takeaway there is go to a loved one,
family member or a good friend that will be honest with you.

Instead of privatizing your Facebook page and really trying to lock
it down, ask a friend, “Hey, friend, will you please be brutally
honest with me and tell me what five photos I should remove from
my profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,” whatever it is.
They will come back and they’ll give you those five photos and
they’ll be brutally honest because they care about you, and you
should seriously consider removing those.

I’ve actually had people do that with me. Even though I live a light,
bright and polite life, I still have had some photos that some
of my friends have said, “Hey, Josh, you’re a great guy and
you’re awesome. But these photos could be misunderstood.” I
went, “You know what? That’s a really good point,” and I took
them down. So I think that’s the best way to make your profile
photos private and safe.

Alexis: Wow. This is fantastic stuff. I mean, it applies to adults as
much as kids. So, Josh, tell me a little bit about what the
future holds for your company media leaders.

Josh: Yeah. So we’ve got a book coming out next year that’s going to
be “Light, Bright and Polite for Families and Kids”. It’s going
to help a lot of families to be more safe and smart on social
media. That’s going to be a tactical way to show kids how to be
kind, smart, and polite in all that they do so they’re proud of
everything they do.

Alexis: Wow. Well, please let us know when it comes out. I’m sure I’m
going to find out, and if you can come to Boston, we’d love to
have you.

Josh: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Alexis: Well, thanks Josh. I appreciate you coming on, taking some time
out of your day to share with us today. This wraps up our show
today with Josh Ochs, bestselling author and public
speaker. Please visit, to learn
more about Josh’s social media safety trainings and to find out
when Josh may be coming to your city.

You can purchase Josh’s book, “Light, Bright and Polite”, by going to and typing in “Light, Bright and Polite” into the
search bar. Thank you for joining us on the Prepped and Polished
Radio Show.

Is your online profile light, bright, and polite? Do you have any follow-questions for Josh?

Post your tips/comments below.

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August 6th, 2013
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Children and Adult Well-Being, Featured, Podcast, Radio Interviews
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Episode 6: Teenage-Fiction Writer Rebecca Donovan IS “Breathing”

Teenage-Fiction Writer Rebecca Donovan

On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, I interview teen-fiction writer and USA Today best-selling author Rebecca Donovan. Rebecca talks about her journey as a successful author of the popular “Breathing” series and gives us tips on how we can tap into our creative writing potential.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Rebecca has a degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has been a writer most of her life and recently published her first book, Reason to Breathe in 2011. She lives in Massachusetts.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Alexis: Hello, and thanks for joining us for the Prepped and Polished Radio
Show. I’m your host, Alexis Avila. I’m a licensed guidance counselor,
private tutor, and founder of Prepped and Polished, LLC Tutoring and Test
Prep, in beautiful South Natick, Massachusetts. The Prepped and Polished
Radio Show is your educational insider. Our show is brought to you by
Prepped and Polished, LLC, where I’m the principal educator. To learn more
about our firm, please visit you to everyone who is listening to the program. We appreciate you
taking interest in the information we bring to families and educators
around the globe. For future shows, updates, and ongoing relevant education
news, please join our Facebook community by searching for Prepped and
Polished and clicking “like.” You can follow us on Twitter at PrepPolished.

Joining our show today, is Rebecca Donovan. Rebecca is a USA Today
bestselling author, her debut novel entitled, “Reason to Breathe.” Her
“Breathing” series has resonated with readers, especially teens, around the
world and continues to grow in popularity. Rebecca has a degree in
Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduating from
college, Rebecca worked with teens in social services for over three years.
She made a career change and worked within the event industry for 12 years,
particularly, wedding planning. She’s been a writer most of her life, and
recently published her first book, “Reason to Breathe,” in 2011.

We’re delighted to have Rebecca on our show. She’s going to share with us
her experiences becoming a professional teenage fiction writer and give us
a few tips about how kids and adults can tap into their creative writing
potential and perhaps, one day become successful writers themselves. Before
we start, I want to make sure our listeners have our contact info. Our
email address is If you’d like to submit a
question at any time, you can use that email address. Often, our listeners
will have questions as they’re listening or afterwards. We always
appreciate hearing from our listeners, so you can email us at any time at Rebecca, are you there on the line?

Rebecca: Yes, I am. How are you, Alexis?

Alexis: Great. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?

Rebecca: Better, thanks. I have a little bit of sore throat. If my voice
cracks, don’t bother listening to that.

Alexis: We won’t hold it against you at all. When I was trying to schedule
this interview with you, you were in the West Coast. I believe you were in
Los Angeles. I know you were recently finishing your third book. What
brought you to L.A.? What were you doing out there?

Rebecca: I like to call her my writing partner, now that I’m published with
professional publishing houses, I have my own editing team. Before that,
when I was an indie writer, she acted as my editor in all sense of
grammatic and sentence structure and content. She’s still a writing partner
for me. She lives out in the Ventura County area, which is north of L.A.
The third book, “Out of Breath,” takes place in that area as well, Santa
Barbara. There was great inspiration, and it was great to be able to work
one-on-one with her versus over the Internet or through email. It was just
a nice writing experience sitting right there on the ocean and having that
to look at every day.

Alexis: I could imagine that is inspiration. Could you tell us a little
bit, Rebecca, about your book series, the “Breathing” series and a little
bit about your journey so far as a successful author?

Rebecca: The series is based on a girl who has a hard home life. She has a
difficult past. She’s coming to terms with all of that and displaying her
life and her story enfold with repercussions of having to heal, having to
make choices that are difficult for anyone that’s in that kind of
situation. It resonates with so many people because of the realistic way
I’ve chosen to portray it. I didn’t hold back in the abuse that she goes
through and the trauma that she has to endure. I’ve received countless
emails from so many people, so many survivors of child abuse who have
thanked me for telling her story, giving her a voice and showing the world
that this does exist. It’s been an amazing journey because it’s happened by
word-of-mouth. It’s happened because my readers are so passionate and so
excited about this. As soon as they’re done reading it, they have to tell
the next person, or they can’t wait to share it with someone else or to
have someone else emotionally go through it with them. It’s been surreal,
and I’ve enjoyed every step of the process.

Alexis: That makes a lot of sense. When I was researching, looking at your
blog and all the social media, you’re out there. I could see all those
letters in response to these characters that they’re reading.

Rebecca: They truly connect with them like they’re real people, and that’s

Alexis: Can you tell us a little bit . . . I don’t want you giving away
spoilers or anything . . . who’s Emma and Evan, these main characters I
keep hearing about in your books? Why do you think teens relate to these

Rebecca: Emma is the main character. It’s first person through her
perspective. She starts in the first book. She’s 16. She’s a junior in high
school. She lives with her aunt and uncle. Her aunt is not welcoming of her
invading her life and her home and is abusive towards Emma. Emma has to
hide this from everyone with the risk of losing her two younger siblings to
the foster care system or being removed from the home. She doesn’t want
that life for them because their parents truly do love them. So she’s
basically sacrificing herself in the hopes of getting through high school,
getting off to college, and just being done with them.

Evan is a love interest, in truth. He’s a transfer. He doesn’t know
anything about her, doesn’t know anything about her personality, her style
of life. He’s intrigued by her. The rest of the school [inaudible 06:58]
someone that works in the shadows, doesn’t participate. She excels in
everything, but she doesn’t give a sizeable contribution so that she’s
recognized by any of her peers socially. Evan is intrigued by her. He wants
to know more about her. I think that because I surround them by the essence
of what high school is, the football games, the parties, the day-to-day
gossip that keeps them grounded in this real world of what high school is.
The characters themselves are not the normal teenagers.

Obviously, the average teenager doesn’t have to endure the type of abuse
that Emma has to go through. There are teenagers that do, but that’s not
the average high school experience. Evan travels, he goes from school to
school, and he has had to age beyond his years because he’s always thrust
into these adult situations. That’s one of the reasons he recognizes Emma
as being different. There’s something about her, and any other teenage boy
would have dismissed her as stuck up, or she’s just not interested. He sees
more of her than she’s letting the rest of her peers see. I let them be
different than what the average high school experience is. I think that’s
what draws readers to them, because they’re just so intense. I guess that’s
the best way to put it.

Alexis: Absolutely. You have to go for the jugular to make it resonate with
people. Rebecca, let’s find out a little bit about you. Did you read and
write a lot growing up?

Rebecca: I’ve always read. It’s funny, because YA was never my particular
genre of reading. When I wrote for it, it was kind of ironic. I was more of
a horror-fiction, crime novel, realistic crimes actually. That was my take
on the world of my readership. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so that was
what I read growing up. Writing, I was in journal. I was always very
imaginative. Even as a child, the stories that I would create in my head or
whether I was able to write them down for assignments and such, I was
always writing. I never took the chance to write a novel until a couple
years ago, but I’ve always considered myself a writer. I’ve always been
very expressive, very imaginative.

Alexis: I think that answers the question what you were like as a teen. You
were submerged in books.

Rebecca: Right. I have a bit of Emma-ism, I suppose, in the early part of
my teen years. I was quiet and not really social. I was in advanced
placement classes in my first couple years in high school. Then, it tends
to be the opposite that the more social I became, the less my grades were
as stellar. I was still up in advanced placement English, bio, math
classes, and such. I loved school, and I totally immersed myself in it. I
was the editor of my high school paper. I did some photography for it. I
was able to draw from my experiences, and that’s where my comfort zone was
when I created Emma, but giving her a completely different world. It was me
growing up. I was a little bit awkward at first, and then I grew into
myself, as probably most teens do.

Alexis: Absolutely. We work with students here at Prepped and Polished, and
I’m always thinking about them. Do you have to be someone who was always a
writer to become a writer, or can you learn it?

Rebecca: I think it’s part of you. You write because it’s who you are. It’s
a need that you have, a story in your head that keeps going on and on. The
only way you can get it out, you get it on your paper. If you’re acting it
out, it’s some sort of art form. It’s a form of expression, I consider it
art. I consider it an art, whether writing, painting or acting, it’s a way
of expressing what’s already inside of you. It’s your essence. Your talent
that can be molded. That can be taken either through creative writing
classes, groups, teachers, and educators. Taking something that’s already
there and helping you shape it, so that the world can be a part of it.
That’s how you can become a writer.

Alexis: I really understand, and I love that analogy with the art form. You
don’t hear enough of that, that writing is an art form where you have to
feel it from within, and you, also, have to own your craft and work on it.

Rebecca: Exactly. You just don’t write something, put it out there and the
world takes it and says, “This is brilliant.” It would be amazing to
happen, but there are more rejections than there are acceptances. That
doesn’t mean that you should give up. You write it because that’s what you
need to do. Whether the world accepts it, you can’t control that. That’s
outside. That’s subjective. What you put on paper, how you create it, the
effort, the time, the love you put into it is what you have control over.

Alexis: Right. Do you have any tips for students who love to write and want
to make a career out of it?

Rebecca: The career part, I can’t say it’s going to exactly pay your bills.
It could be something that, in time, as your talent grows, if it’s
something the world is ready for, there are so many ways of exposing your
writing through independent publishing, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble,
and Apple. You don’t have to put any money forward for it. You just have to
have your polished manuscript. With that being said, write, get critiqued
by everybody, especially if you have English teachers or peers that you
respect. Get opinions, help create it and make it better. I did it some
more, because there’s never enough editing. Have it professionally edited.
You can create a story, let the world read, and see what happens. Once you
put it out there, it can either go right to the top, or it’s just going to
be out there. You just have to have that confidence and just keep

Alexis: I think that transcends to a lot of careers.

Rebecca: It does.

Alexis: Rebecca, what do you do in your off time when you don’t write?

Rebecca: I’m a huge music fan, so I go to concerts a lot. I will travel to
concerts. I went to Austin this year, to Austin City Limits. I think I’m
going to Coachella next year. I usually go to, at least, two or three
concerts a month. I’m a huge music fan. It’s also another art for me. I’m
such a huge fan of lyrics and just listen to the music and what is being
said, the poetry behind the words. I’m in awe of the musicians. As much as
I’m a writer myself, it’s just a completely different realm, so I love it.

Alexis: Are we going to be hearing Rebecca Donovan, the singer, after your
writing career?

Rebecca: No, you do not want me to sing. I promise you that. I would like
to get to know that world a little bit more. One of the projects that I’m
working on in the future, and I’m still at the very, very beginning stages
of it, is bringing awareness to child abuse. Part of that is, perhaps,
creating my own foundation to do so. I would love to bring some musicians
on board and have benefit concerts. That will be my two worlds and doing
that to bring awareness and do what I love and have that be a part of
raising that awareness and raising the money for it.

Alexis: Absolutely. I noticed on your website, you have a link to the Child
Help USA and National Domestic Violence Hotline. These two organizations
are, obviously, important to you.

Rebecca: Yes. Writing such a serious topic of child abuse, it was just a
responsibility I felt I needed to share with anyone that’s in that
situation. If they’re able to connect with the story because it’s something
that they’re going through, or know someone that is going through it, and
they’re going to explore my site, I want them to know that these
organizations exist. There’s help, that they’re not alone in any of this.
There’s someone out there that can guide them. They’re nationally
recognized organizations, and I just wanted to make sure that they had the
information there if they’re involved in the story, the Emma story.

Alexis: Awesome. When will your third installment of the “Breathing Series”
come out? I know you have two that came out. The first one is “Reason to
Breathe.” The second installment is “Barely Breathing.”

Rebecca: “Out of Breath” will be out in June. I just got signed by Amazon
publishing. They will be re-releasing both “Reason to Breathe” and “Barely
Breathing” in the spring and launching the new “Out of Breath,” which no
one will have read before then, in June. It’s just a new process where they
take what I’ve written, and they just go through their edits. There’s never
enough editing, so they’re going to go through their editing process with
those two books that have already released and resubmit them. Because it’s
publishing, I’ll be in print form more than I am now. Right now, most of my
sales and distribution has been through e-books. That’s insane considering
I’m bestseller, but it’s all been electronic. Knowing that the print
version hasn’t even been released yet, I can only imagine that it’s going
to get that much better and have that much broader release into the world.
I’ll soon have been signed with other international publishers in different
countries, in the UK, Russia, Hungary, and Brazil. It’s going to be
worldwide pretty soon. Pretty exciting.

Alexis: Since 2011, you’ve put out three books. I just can’t imagine how
many books you’re going to have put out in about five years.

Rebecca: I’m a slow writer in comparison to my fellow authors. Some are
putting two or three books out a year. I intend to put out one a year, so
that’s a little slow in the perspective of the writing world. Before I’ve
had to divide my time with a full-time job in writing. This year, I’m
grateful having to just concentrate on being an author and writing. So
2013, I’m hoping to put a couple books out and continue on that avenue of
creating more for my audience.

Alexis: That is incredible. We are all supporting you and we’re big fans.
Thank you very much, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Thank you.

Alexis: Thanks for coming on today.

Rebecca: It was my pleasure.

Alexis: This wraps up our show today with Rebecca Donovan of the successful
“Breathing Series.” Please visit to learn more about
Rebecca’s writing and books. I also highly recommend checking out Rebecca’s
blog, which can be found on her site. Join her Facebook fan page to get
updates on her work. You can purchase all of Rebecca’s books by going on
her website or on Amazon. Thank you for joining us on the Prepped and
Polished Radio Show.

Have you read “Barely Breathing” or “Reason to Breathe”? What is your favorite book of the series?

Post your tips/comments below.

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December 18th, 2012
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Episode 5, Sandra Rizkallah, Get Plugged In! Empowering Children with Music

Sandra Rizkallah of Plugged In

On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, I interview Sandra Rizkallah of Needham, Massachusetts-based non-profit Plugged In. Sandra shares with us her experiences and overall successes using music to help improve a child’s self-confidence and social consciousness.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Sandra has a degree in film and television from Emerson College; She has produced her own documentaries as well and has worked in the post-production department of NOVA and WBGH Public Television.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Announcer: Talkshoe: Recorded Live.Alexis: Hello. Thanks for joining us for the Prepped and Polished radio
show. I’m your host Alexis Avila; licensed guidance counselor,
private tutor, and founder of Prepped and Polished, LLC,
tutoring and test prep in beautiful South Natick, Massachusetts.
The Prepped and Polished radio show is your educational insider.
Our show is brought to you by Prepped and Polished, LLC; where
I’m the principle educator. To learn more about our firm, please
visit Thank you to everyone who’s
listening to the program. We appreciate you taking interest into
the info we provide to families and educators around the globe.
For future shows, updates, and ongoing relevant education news,
please join our Facebook community by searching for Prepped and
Polished and clicking like. You can also find us on Twitter
@preppedpolished.Joining our show today is Sandra Riscala. Sandra is cofounder of
Plugged In, a Needham, Massachusetts-based nonprofit music
program whose focus is to give young people a venue through
which they can channel their creativity, learn to work in a
group, improve their music skills, while learning about the
value and importance of social activism. Sandra has a degree in
film and television from Premerson College. She has produced her
own documentaries, as well as worked in the postproduction
department of Nova and WGBH public television. We’re delighted
to have Sandra on our show; she’s going to share with us her
experiences bringing young people together through Plugged In
and her overall successes improving a child’s self-confidence
and social consciousness through music.

Before we start, I just want to make sure our listeners have our
contact info. Our email is If
you’d like to submit a question at any time, you can use that
email address. Often, our listeners will have questions as
they’re listening in, or afterwards, so we always appreciate
hearing from you. You can email us at anytime, at

Sandra, are you on the line?

Sandra: Yes, I am. Hello?

Alexis: How are you doing today?

Sandra: I’m good. How are you?

Alexis: I’m doing well. Thank you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Sandra: You’re welcome.

Alexis: Sandra, I see that you and I were both film majors in college.
What was the last really good movie you’ve seen?

Sandra: ‘Searching for Sugarman’.

Alexis: Did that come out recently?

Sandra: It came out in the summer and I was wanting to see it. Life was
crazy, and I never got a chance to. Then a couple weeks ago, I
went to the wonderful Coolidge Cornered cinema in Brookline.
It’s a beautiful movie, I loved it. I don’t know. Do you know
about it?

Alexis: No. I think I’ve heard of it, but I’m a little out of the loop.
I have to get back into film.

Sandra: It’s a music . . . it’s about a musician. It’s a documentary,
but it’s an amazing story. Very [inaudible: 03:22] . . .

Alexis: Wow. That sounds . . .

Sandra: . . . inspiring, yeah.

Alexis: Thanks for the tip. I appreciate that.

Sandra: No problem.

Alexis: Can you start off by telling us about what is Plugged In, and
how you came up with your program?

Sandra: Yes. Plugged In a nonprofit teen rock band program. What we do
is we put kids in bands. We group them by their age, their skill
level, their musical interest, their personality, and their
availability. They meet once a week with a teacher, with their
band for 1 1/2 hours. Each session lasts about 13 or 14 weeks. At
the end of each session, they have a concert. Their final
concert is a concert that raises money for one charitable
organization or cause that’s chosen by the student.

At the beginning of the term, we have an evening called
Community Engage, when the students get together, they pitch
different causes that are important to them, and talk about the
work they do and why they believe that we should raise money for
them. Then at the end of the evening, the kids vote and they
determine what they’re going to raise money for. Our program is
really putting the emphasis on using music to help others and on
compassion to others and themselves, and away from ego, stardom,
and competition.

Alexis: What’s an example of one of the charity organizations that the
kids decided to go with?

Sandra: Let’s see. We had a bunch of different ones. We’ve had one for
the Aspergers Association of New England, had one for the Cystic
Fibrosis Foundation. We’ve had one for We Care Solar. We’ve had
Amnesty International. We’ve had the [inaudible: 05:00] Fund.
We’ve had all different local and international ones. It’s
really exciting because this is really, very [inaudible: 05:09],
that it’s determined by the kids. We don’t take input from
parents; we don’t put our own input in. For every term, we don’t
know where the kids are going to take us, what people are going
to need, and what things we’re going to learn about around the

One of the things we do too, is we get a lot of suggestions;
sometimes 20 suggestions from the kids. After every Community
Engage, we send an email out to our entire mailing list with all
the suggestions, with links to the websites of the
organizations. Then at the concert, we have all of them listed
on the program, because we may not be raising money for all of
them, but we want to let the kids feel that their suggestion is
at least bringing awareness to their organization that’s
important to them in our community.

Alexis: Wow. That’s great. That teaches them a lesson to not . . . just
because there’s one winner, it doesn’t mean that everybody can’t
be a part of it somehow.

Sandra: Absolutely. Yep.

Alexis: You talked a little bit about how you separate students into
different levels. I was just wondering, do you need to have a
music background or a natural music talent to be a part of
Plugged In?

Sandra: Not at all. We have a number of students who have come with
very, very little experience. We are not an organization that is
putting a lot of pressure on the kids to be perfect; that’s not
the goal. The goal is really to be a team player, to gain
confidence, to make a difference in the world with something
that you love, like music. We have kids of all abilities. We
have some kids with disabilities. We have different functioning;
all different types of people. All the differences are
transcended because all the kids love music.

We find that really putting the emphasis on compassion really
ends up having a transformative effect, not only on the
atmosphere of Plugged In, but on the kids themselves. Because I
think what happens is they become more open, just open-hearted
and they make stronger connections with each other, and they
also feel more safe to take risks, musically. I think the result
is increased confidence, connection to the community, and they
feel empowered that they are making a difference in the world.
Really, it’s a very beautiful thing to watch and be part of.

Alexis: Wow. That’s great. When did Plugged In start? What are some of
the changes you’ve seen since the beginning to now?

Sandra: I think . . . my husband, Tom and I, he is an engineer at WGBH
and a musician; we started the program in 2002. We just had an
idea. I had some friends that had a theatre program and we were
actually on the beach in [inaudible: 08:12], and the idea came
popped into my head to do this. Tom and I had never had a
business or anything; we’ve never done anything like this
before. We basically just hung up flyers. The first band we had,
had 5 students in it. I think one of the really wonderful things
about Plugged In is that we are learning along with our
students. I always say to our students that we’re all perfectly
imperfect, that we aren’t a glossy machine. We’re learning as we
go along with our students. It’s been an amazing experience.

We’ve really gone out into the community and taken a lot of
workshops on nonprofit management and board development. We’re
very connected to the nonprofit community around us; any chance
that we can to learn, to connect with people, to get help. We
take the message that we give to our students, and we use it
with ourselves, which is that we try to the right thing, to get
it right, but if we don’t get it right, we try again. It’s
really proven to be really successful and the kids feel very . .
. there’s be a lot of positive reinforcement from the community,
from the schools, principals, guidance counselors, the Youth
Commission. We basically have had a number, number, number of
people tell us that our program saved their child’s life or
they’ve [inaudible: 09:40].

Alexis: Wow.

Sandra: A lot of times, the kids who are gifted in music or interested
in music . . . not all of them, but some, may not be naturally
doing well in school, academically or sports and they fall
through the cracks, and there’s nowhere for them to get
acknowledgement in the community. We pick these kids who may
really have been losing self-esteem and self-confidence in
school. They come to Plugged In, and it’s a place for them to
express the gift that they have, to be acknowledged in the
community, many community performances that we are invited to
and perform at. It helps them to feel really confident. I think
it ends up . . . there are some kids who are easy with
academics, but even for the ones that aren’t, once their
confidence grows, I think that that starts to have a positive
effect on their academics, as well.

Alexis: That really resonates with me, because I grew up in Needham. In
the 90’s, if you didn’t play sports, you went to the mall.

Sandra: Yep.

Alexis: I could just definitely see the benefits of having another
program that really helps empower kids, like a Plugged In.
That’s just awesome.

Sandra: One of our students, he said, “In Plugged In, I found my
people,” which I find sums it up as sweet. They’re very
grateful; they are very protective of Plugged In. The kids
really try hard to do the right thing, to make it as good as it
can be. They are so kind to each other, supportive, and loving.
The big kids help the little kids. The little kids . . . we have
kids as young as 8 and 9, and when they’re on stage, all the big
kids are in front cheering them on. It’s really beautiful. It’s
almost . . . sometimes in high school it’s not cool to be kind;
you have to put the hard shell around. In Plugged In, we’re
trying to teach that strength comes from kindness, and the more
you open up your heart, the stronger you are; it’s not a sign of
weakness. I think the kids get that at Plugged In. They really
feel safe being the true kind person they are.

Alexis: Wow. That’s powerful. For our listeners outside of
Massachusetts, are there programs that you know of like Plugged
In outside of the Massachusetts area?

Sandra: Are you asking me?

Alexis: Yeah, because I have no idea. I’m just saying if you’re in New
Hampshire. I don’t know. Have you . . . do you know?

Sandra: Yeah. There are definitely rock band programs all over. I would
think that, from what I know, there aren’t many that involve the
philanthropic charitable part of it.

Alexis: Okay.

Sandra: For us, we find that that is the most important part of our

Alexis: Yeah, because you do a lot with charities and giving back. I’m
not sure if our listeners know this, but my younger brother,
Nicholas, is a Plugged In alumni.

Sandra: And a teacher.

Alexis: And a teacher at Plugged In. Nick’s currently touring in a
successful metal band called Power Glove. Have you noticed a
little or a lot of former Plugged In kids taking their music to
the next level?

Sandra: Yeah. We have a number of students from the early days who have
come back, who have went to Berkeley College of Music or in the
music profession, and come back and teaching. Being 10-years-
old, we don’t have a huge alumni group, but there are those who
are pursuing . . . One thing that we do know is many, many, many
have taken the philanthropic part into and integrated into part
of their lives, whether in college or in their careers. We hear
back from kids a lot, that that’s something that they will take
with them forever. It’s part of who they are now.

Alexis: Absolutely. What are your future plans for Plugged In, going
into the [inaudible: 14:06] and beyond?

Sandra: We just moved to a new location . . .

Alexis: Wow.

Sandra: . . . which is very exciting for us. It’s probably, at least
double the size. Now we can offer private lessons and we’ll have
a recording studio. On a short-term, we’re really working to
build those programs and strengthen the infrastructure to
sustain that type of growth. Long-term, we have some very . . .
we want to do our summer camp more. Then we have some ideas of .
. . we have a lot of people that we’ve met along the years in
different parts of the world who run team youth music programs.
One of the ideas we have is having some program where we take
kids to these different countries and meet up with other people
who are using music for positive change, and have a cross-
cultural program. That’s a long-term, far-reaching one, but an
exciting one.

Alexis: Yeah. You got to dream big.

Sandra: Yes, we do. We have a list of goals. The ones that are a short-
term, realistic, and then we have the long ones. You keep moving
forward on both columns. We also want to figure out short-term,
more ways for the kids to be involved in the charities that they
choose. We want to have more programming for older students, 11
to 12th grade, and maybe have them give lessons to younger
students or students who can’t afford private lessons. We have a
lot of ideas.

Alexis: That’s fantastic. You guys also have an amazing website. I was
looking through it. I’m a big website guy, so I just love the
logo and the fun buttons. You learn about what Plugged In is by
the website.

Sandra: Yeah. I’ll have to put a plug-in for the Boston University
Center for Digital Imaging Arts, in Waltham. They have a
program, called the Practicum Program, where nonprofits apply,
and then the students choose which nonprofit they want to work
with. We got our website designed free from this program. It’s
an amazing website. We’ve had some promotional videos done by
them. If anyone out there’s looking for the nonprofits, wants to
apply to the BUCDIA, you should definitely look them up.

Alexis: Yeah, I’m in. I’m looking at this website. They’re the real

Sandra: It is.

Alexis: Are there any upcoming concerts, in case I don’t have any plans
or our listeners would like to attend one of these Plugged In

Sandra: Yes. We have a couple fundraisers coming up for Plugged In. We
have one on November 9th, in Needham, where a band called
[inaudible: 16:46], a very cool band, is performing. The bass
player there is a former teacher of ours. Trying to think of
some upcoming . . . our end-of-session concert is in January,
the weekend of Martin Luther King. We have a couple of other
performances, I think in Needham. When they light the tree in
Needham, our students are going to be performing there. You can
see it all on our website. I can’t remember the dates.

Alexis: Perfect. That sounds awesome. Thank you so much, Sandra. I
really appreciate you coming on and taking time to educate us on
Plugged In. Thank you.

Sandra: Thank you, as well. We love your organization. I think you’re
doing great work, and we love having Nick teaching at Plugged
In. He’s doing a great job.

Alexis: Good. All right.

Sandra: All right. Thanks, Alexis.

Alexis: You’re welcome.

Sandra: All right. Bye.

Alexis: Talk to you soon.

Sandra: All right. Bye-bye.

Alexis: This wraps up our show today, with Sandra Riscala of Plugged
In. Please visit to learn more about Sandra’s
music program. If you care about the longevity of student music
empowerment programs such as Plugged In, I highly suggest making
a donation on their site, as well. Thank you for joining us on
The Prepped and Polished radio show.

How do music programs such as Plugged In help empower children? Do you have music programs such as Plugged In close to where you live ?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 31st, 2012
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Episode 4: Brian Lomax, Using Your Mental Game to Ace Tests and Ace Life

Brian Lomax PerformanceXtra

On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, I interview Brian Lomax of Boston-based firm PerformanceXtra. Brian gives advice on how to build mental strength so you can increase performance potential in academics, in sports, and in life.

Brian is a Certified Mental Toughness Trainer by the Human Performance Institute with a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. Prior to this role, Brian worked in Corporate America as a consultant for various companies such as Fidelity and Putnam Investments and spent 35 years playing tennis, having been Nationally ranked as recently as 2006, where he was ranked second in the US for Mens 35’s Singles.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Announcer: Talkshoe; recorded live.

Alexis: Hello. Thanks for joining us for the Prepped and Polished radio
show. I’m your host, Alexis Avila, licensed guidance counselor,
private tutor, and founder of Prepped and Polished LLC.,
Tutoring and Test Prep, in beautiful South Natick,
Massachusetts. The Prepped and Polished radio show is your
educational insider. Our show is brought to you by Prepped and
Polished LLC., where I’m the principal educator. To learn more
about our firm, please visit

Thank you to everyone who’s listening to the program. We
appreciate you taking interest in the information we bring to
families and educators around the globe. For future shows,
updates, and ongoing relevant education news, please join our
Facebook community by searching for Prepped and Polished and
clicking Like. You can follow us on Twitter, @preppedpolished.

Joining our show today is Brian Lomax. Brian is Founder of
PerformanceXtra, a Boston-based firm, where he coaches
individuals and groups to realize their performance potential by
focusing on the mental game and providing a framework for
success. Brian is a certified mental toughness trainer by the
Human Performance Institute. He has a Bachelor of Arts from
Vanderbilt University. Prior to this role, Brian worked in
corporate America as a consultant for various companies, such as
Fidelity and Putnam Investments, and spent 35 years playing
tennis, having been nationally ranked as recently as 2006, where
he was ranked 2nd in the US for men’s 35 singles.

We’re delighted to have Brian on our show. He’s going to share
with us his wisdom and tips for gaining the competitive mental
edge, not only in sports, but also academics and in life. Before
we start, I want to make sure our listeners have our contact
info. Our email address is If
you’d like to submit a question at any time, you can use that
email address. Often, our listeners will have questions as
they’re listening or afterwards. We always appreciate hearing
from our listeners. If you can email us at anytime, feel free:

Brian, are you there on the line?

Brian: Yes, Alexis. Good morning.

Alexis: Good morning to you. Thanks so much for joining us. Really
appreciate it. How are you doing today?

Brian: I’m doing great. It’s my pleasure to be here, so looking
forward to this.

Alexis: Great. Just a little warm-up; Number 2 ranking in the entire US
for men’s age 35 Division in 2006. Pretty impressive. What’s
your . . .

Brian: Yeah. I have to say, actually, that the mental toughness piece
is what took me there. I had not had results of that kind, prior
to my turning 35. That result in some ways, Alexis, was a
catalyst for starting PerformanceXtra.

Alexis: Wow. Amazing. Can you start out by telling us a little bit
about PerformanceXtra, and how you came up with your company?

Brian: Sure. I really . . . I guess the mission of it, and you went
through it there, in terms of what I’m trying to educate people
on, in terms of the mental game. When I examine how we teach
sports, or any really performance context, we often don’t talk
about what people are thinking and feeling, and what they should
be doing to enhance their performance. Very often, a concept
like mental toughness is left to the individual to either
develop themselves or we believe that either you have it or you
don’t. Recent times have shown that that’s not true, that mental
toughness, competitive skills, and performance skills are
trainable. They are things that are within our control.

PerformanceXtra is really an educational-based program to help
train people on various concepts; they can make them mentally
tougher, make them better competitors, make them better
performers. In that way, it’s different than sports psychology,
only because sports psychology tends to look at issues or
problems and deals with them. This is really more of a program
about ‘let’s train this at any skill’, whether it’s an athletic
skill or other physical skill. Let’s do the same on the mental
side and bring you through a comprehensive program that trains
you to be mentally tougher, as well as build character and
become almost that relentless, ultimate competitor. I think that
that has really resonated with a lot of students that have been
looking for that extra edge in their performance.

Alexis: That’s fantastic. I was looking at your bio a bit, and I
noticed that you left a career in corporate America to take on
this endeavor with PerformanceXtra. What drew you to start your
own business helping others develop mental strength . . .

Brian: I guess Number 1 is . . .

Alexis: . . . and leave a security of the Corporate America?

Brian: That’s right. Some people would say that it was a courageous
jump, and perhaps it was. I think Number 1, a love of sports.
Someone in my position, who wouldn’t want to have sports as a
career in your life all the time? Because even when I was
working in corporate America, as you can tell from my playing
background, tennis was always there, was always my outlet for
staying sane. I think it was also, Alexis, a realization of,
“What am I really doing with my life?”

I felt like starting something like PerformanceXtra was much
more meaningful to me than working at large financial services
companies. While those companies certainly have their goals and
their missions, I felt like my own mission was to help people
perform better, because I had proved that I could do it myself.
I wish that I had had a program like this when I was younger,
not only just from the athletic aspect of it, but just from the
character-building perspective. My ultimate mission in life now
is to help younger people not only with their mental toughness,
but also to start to work on designing their own life and using
sports as a vehicle to do that and to help them build character
so they have a framework for making some of the bigger decisions
they’re going to have to make in life.

Alexis: That makes so much sense, and applicable to kids and adults.
Brian, from your experience, do you find that some people
struggle more than others with the mental aspect of their
proverbial game?

Brian: I would say for sure, and there are a lot of different reasons
for that. I think if we start to talk more about younger
athletes, there’s such a fixation with winning, the bottom-line
result; that that causes a lot of emotional distress, a lot of
anxiety. One of the first things that I try to get athletes to
shift to is away from a primary focus on that result because it
only causes things like anxiety and emotional reactions, and
really think about the process of how you play or how you
perform. Really, what I call process-oriented thinking.

Once we can get someone to begin to understand that, focusing on
the process will lead to good results, then they can start to be
a little bit more mature, in terms of their reactions and they
can start to regulate their own body language. They can start to
regulate how they talk to themselves, which is going to get them
more relaxed, get them away from being anxious and being
emotional about winning and losing, and really look at it more
as a process of learning, getting better, and only striving to
perform your best. Playing your best and winning don’t always
equal each other. The same on the other side, playing your worst
and losing don’t necessarily equal each other either.

Alexis: Right.

Brian: That’s a key mindset shift for a lot of people, and I think
that’s one of the basic things that younger people have a hard
time with is, our focus on winning.

Alexis: Do you find that the real . . . the pros, the Number 1s and 2s
in the tennis game, those are the ones that just have adopted
really good strategies for keeping that mental toughness intact?
Good self talk per se?

Brian: Yeah. I think it’s a sales talk and it’s also the body
language, really. If you want to see how mentally tough a tennis
player is, don’t watch the points, watch what they do in between
points. There is really a lot of very set behavior there. In
fact, with tennis players, it’s a very specific routine that I
teach them about how to behave in between points. If you see
someone at any level of tennis, they have poor body language;
they’re throwing their racket, or saying things out loud
expressing frustration. That’s not really a sign of mental
toughness, and in fact, it’s probably a sign of weakness and
you’re telling your opponent that, “I can’t handle adversity. I
can’t handle a tough situation.” When you watch the top players,
I really ask players to watch in between the points. That’s what
you really need to emulate to start playing better tennis,
because they always have positive, strong, confident body
language. Although we can’t hear what’s going on in their head,
the same thing is going on there, where they’re also
encouraging, supportive and positive.

Alexis: That’s amazing. All these light bulbs went off in my head,
because when I deal with students with tutoring, I’m thinking,
“Maybe I should help them watch what they say in between

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. Help them reframe, perhaps, how they look at
things. Certainly, a character skill like optimism and
positivity is very important for any performance, certainly
academic and in testing. It’s the same pressure that you’re
facing when you’re taking a major exam that could determine some
of your future outcomes, as well as playing in the final of a
major tennis event; same performance anxieties are happening.
Certainly, how you carry yourself and how you talk to yourself
are very important.

Alexis: Absolutely. Can you tell us a little bit about the positive
psychology in human performances courses you’ve completed, and
how you’ve incorporated your positive psychology training into
your practice?

Brian: Sure. First of all, I guess I’ll define what positive
psychology is, because it’s often confused with straight-out
positive thinking, which it’s not. Positive psychology,
essentially, has looked at the psychology industry and has
noticed that the majority of money spent in psychology today is
on fixing depression syndromes, psychological illness, with the
goal of getting that person back to neutral. Positive psychology
says, “We don’t just want to have people at neutral, we want to
have people be happier, be psychologically stronger so that they
don’t become susceptible to mental illness.”

On the physical side of things we do this, right? We have gyms,
health clubs. That’s working the positive side of our physical
health. We don’t necessarily spend a lot of money on the mental
side. Positive psychology’s goal is how you help people lead
happier and more fulfilling lives so that you’re not doing so
much on the mental illness side?

There are some major tenants of positive psychology that
certainly apply to performance. One of them we mentioned is
positivity and optimism. Looking at anything, any one event that
happens to you and seeing what the benefit of that would be,
rather than by default a lot of people look at the negative of
it. This is not to say that we’re trying to turn people into
Pollyanna’s who see the . . . are just positive about
everything. Regardless, there’s no realism there. If you can’t
learn from things like mistakes, then you’re ceiling for
potential is much lower than the person who can take a mistake,
understand why it happened, make an adjustment, and then

The very famous positive psychology example is Thomas Edison
inventing the light bulb. He didn’t just roll out of bed one
day, draw it up, and turn it on. There were probably upwards of
1,000 attempts at creating it. With each attempt, one could say
it’s a failure but he learned something from it, or his team
learned something from it. They were able to apply those
learnings to the next attempt, and then the next attempt.
Finally, we had success. We view Thomas Edison and his team as
successful people. We don’t view them as failures, even though
if you were to look at a win/loss graph they had many more
failures than they had successes.

Alexis: Wow. Definitely [inaudible: 14:33] mistakes so makes so much
sense. What are some tips you might have for a student who’s
really anxious taking tests? Any couple techniques that come to
your mind that you can employ to help gain that confidence when
you go into a high-pressure situation such as an SAT that
determines your fate as to what college you get into?

Brian: I think it goes back to a little bit what we were discussing
earlier, Alexis, with where is that person’s focus? Is it on the
result? Is there a tremendous amount of pressure to achieve a
particular score? Most likely there is, right? I certainly
remember that from my youth. Then it’s, “Okay. Let’s break that
goal down. We want a certain score. How do we get there?” Break
it down into a particular process. Is it getting tutoring,
taking classes? Do I need to improve certain aspects of my math
and verbal? Really, almost breaking it down into components and
subcomponents so that you can improve in all of those lower
level areas that you get really good on the stuff that you can
control. You can’t really control winning and losing, or getting
the score directly. You have to go through a certain process to
get there. It’s at that lower level that you can exercise

Like anything, you’re going to train and you’re going to
practice. That’s where you build confidence. With each practice
test that you take, examine it in a very honest way about, how
did I do? Then where you did well, give yourself credit for
that. It’s almost like having a little confidence bank account.
You want to make some deposits into that bank account, so that
by the time you get to the actual test, you can start
withdrawing money from that confidence bank account and apply
it. You’ve done all the preparation, you’ve understood the test,
in terms of how it’s constructed, and you’ve broken it down into
how I can control my results on this. You’ve practiced at that
level. Then you can just execute at that point. I think it’s
very similar, in terms of how athletes train for big events.

Alexis: Definitely. Absolutely. When you trained to get your Number 2
standing for the US Men’s, it wasn’t just in the moment, your
self-talk in between points, but I’m sure you’ve done . . . did
you do a lot of preparation and practice to get you to that

Brian: Absolutely. In some regards, it’s a build-up of a couple of
years of preparation; mapping out what your goal is,
understanding how you want to perhaps maximize some of your
strengths, and also shore up some of your weaknesses, and then
building upon that. That can take months. For me, there were
certain things I wanted to do around how I move around the
court; my footwork, my balance could be better. I improved that.

Even things like equipment; I upgraded rackets, I upgraded
string. You really have to think about everything that’s within
your control. What could I do to improve that particular area? I
think the more people begin to think about the process of any
performance and what they actually control, and then breaking it
down and trying to make little improvements over time, it’s
really going to benefit. It’s not just, “I’m controlling what
I’m saying to myself out on the court,” even that takes
training. It’s putting the entire package together so that when
I arrive at a big event and I say, “All right. Brian, have you
prepared as well as you could have for this event?” I want to
say yes. That’s what gives me confidence, that I’ve done
everything I needed to do, I’ve mapped out my strategy; how to
show up at this particular event and do my best.

Alexis: That’s great. Brian, do you find that working with your clients
and helping them develop mental strength, whether it’s on the
tennis court or helping a student with a test overcoming
anxiety, does it help them improve their confidence in life in

Brian: Yeah. I think confidence is not necessarily ubiquitous across
all spheres of life. I can speak for myself as a tennis player
when I was younger. I was certainly confident on the tennis
court, but I was a bit of a disaster socially. It certainly can.
If you apply the same principals of building confidence to other
areas of your life, yes, you can. Just being confident in one
area of life doesn’t necessarily directly translate to others.
If you apply that process that we were just talking about, say,
“Hey. I want to get better socially so how do I figure that out?
What are the things I need to do to do that?” It’s a matter of
applying the process, as opposed to just direct translation, if
that makes sense.

Alexis: Yeah, that makes perfect sense, because when I was putting
together these questions, I was thinking, “Man, I bet when you
help a client on a tennis game, I’m sure they just go out into
life feeling a lot more prepared and go in with this framework
that they have, and it’s just applicable outside of the tennis
court.” It can be a very powerful thing, what you’re teaching
people here.

Brian: Absolutely. We’re just using sports as a vehicle for that, but
we certainly touch on that. This is setting a framework for you
to make a lot of decisions in the rest of your life.

Alexis: Absolutely. Thanks, Brian. That was very helpful. Really
appreciate your time. This wraps up our show today with Brian
Lomax, at PerformanceXtra. Please visit to
learn more about Brian’s company. If you want to work on and
improve your mental strength, whether it’s at school, on the
tennis court, I highly recommend Brian. Thank you, Brian.

Brian: Thank you, Alexis.

Alexis: My pleasure. Thank you for joining us on the Prepped and
Polished radio show.

Do you struggle with test or performance anxiety? What are some ways you deal with the mental aspect of your game?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 17th, 2012
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Episode 3: Lee Kennon, How Teenagers Can Stay Healthy in Today’s Society

Fitness Expert
On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, I interview Lee Kennon of Kennon Fitness in Newton-Wellesley, MA. Lee talks about his four-year stint in the Marines, his work as a Certified Fitness Trainer and Coach, and his overall mission to help teens and adults discover the true meaning of pushing oneself beyond any limit one ever imagined possible.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Lee Kennon is a Certified Personal Trainer by the American Council of Exercise with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from UMass Boston. He served four years in the United States Marine Corps.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Announcer: Recorded live.Alexis: Hi there, and thanks for joining us for the Prepped and
Polished radio show. I’m your host, Alexis Avila, licensed
guidance counselor, private tutor, and founder of Prepped and
Polished LLC, Tutoring and Test Prep in beautiful South Natick,
Massachusetts.The Prepped and Polished Radio Show is your education insider. Our
show is brought to you by Prepped and Polished, LLC, where I am
the principal educator. To learn more about our firm, please

Thank you to everyone who is listening to the program. We appreciate
you taking an interest in the information we bring to families
and educators around the globe. For future dates and ongoing
relevant education news, please join our Facebook community by
searching for Prepped and Polished and clicking “like” and you
can follow us on Twitter, it’s @Preppedpolished.

Joining our show today is Lee Kennon. Lee is founder of Kennon
Fitness, based in Newton/Wellesley, Massachusetts, where he
helps people of all ages reach their fitness potential.

Lee is a certified personal trainer from the American Counsel of
Exercise with a Bachelor of Science in business management from
UMass Boston. Prior to this role, Lee served four years in the
Marines where he learned to push himself to new limits, both
physically and mentally.

Lee is a competitive athlete in Brazilian jujitsu and running and has
competed in grappling tournaments all of New England and has run
countless races from 5K’s to our very own Boston Marathon. We
are delighted to have Lee on the show. He is going to share with
us his wisdom and tips for getting into better physical shape
and teach us how to stay in shape for life.

Before we start, I want to make sure our listeners have our contact
info. Our e-mail is If you would
like to submit a question at any time, you can use that e-mail
address. Often our listeners will have questions as they are
listening or afterwards, we always appreciate hearing from our
listeners, so you can e-mail us at any time at

Lee, are you on the line?

Lee: Hello, Alexis, I’m on the line.

Alexis: Thank you, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you
doing today?

Lee: I’m doing well, thank you for having me.

Alexis: My pleasure, my pleasure. So, Lee, I’m not sure our audience
knows that in addition to the grappling, you also compete in
some mixed martial arts and boxing competitions.

Lee: I do, yeah.

Alexis: So, what’s your record?

Lee: My amateur boxing record is actually 1 and 0, so undefeated with one
match, and mixed martial arts I just do that recreationally and
I do training with that. With grappling, I’ve gout about 34
bouts under my belt and I am about 22 and 12 with that.

Alexis: Wow, that’s great! More wins than losses is always a good

Lee: There you go.

Alexis: Lee, can you start out by telling us, what is Kennon Fitness,
and how you came up with your company?

Lee: Yes, what I do is I do personally training as a private industry
between the Newton, Wellesley, West End and Needham areas, and I
worked for the Beacon Hill Athletic Club for about five years as
a trainer and group exercise instructor there, and
simultaneously started branching out on my own to do a private
business where I meet people in their homes and their home gym
set-up and help them work out and design exercise regimens, as
well as I do group training sessions at public parks and tracks
in the surrounding areas as well.

So, essentially I go from house to house throughout the course of the
day with all my clientele, and help them basically better
themselves physically and have a better outlook on health and
fitness. Some people, it’s just who want to get into better
shape overall. Some people are very, very out of shape and need
a lot more assistance with something very specific, and some are
half-beats who just want to fine tune or more efficiently
structure their exercise regimen.

I came up with the concept just because as far as traveling around,
there are also a lot of people who don’t have time to go to the
gym or don’t belong to a gym or have a better set up in their
own homes, or also prefers to have somebody come, not wanting to
be in front of other people. You name the reason, but it’s a
very convenient thing to have a trainer come to your house if
you have the time.

Alexis: Excellent, yes, definitely, especially in this fast paced

Lee: Absolutely.

Alexis: So, here’s just a question I came up with. Why fitness, Lee?
Why is it important for people to stay in shape. Are there
benefits outside from just making you feel better just

Lee: Well, absolutely. Your body essentially is your temple, and you only
get one body to carry around with you for the rest of your life,
so as far as just trying to look good or just feel good, there
is also a lot of health risks that you reduce by staying in as
good a shape as you possibly can along with your day to day
lifestyle. I mean, especially with like the younger population

Over a third of child and adolescents are considered obese or
overweight by our national average, and that’s the highest it’s
every been. Over the past 30 years or so, it has just about
tripled in it’s number. So due to this, being obese and having a
sedentary lifestyle has an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,
heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, several
different types of cancers, just to name a few. Depression,
overall mood, by just having a much better outlook on your
health and fitness, as well as your lifestyle, it affects

It affects your entire life, life expectancy, diseases later on in
age, so it’s not just feeling good. That’s like honestly just
one of the smaller parts in terms of staying in shape and being

The reason I got into it, when I was in the Marine Corps, I really
enjoyed the fitness aspect of everything we did with the
training and the conditioning, and I really took a liking to it,
so I started my training and my studies while I was actually in
the Marine Corps, for the last year of my service and applying
coming back to Massachusetts. At the age of 23, I actually got
started as a personal trainer.

Alexis: Wow, so it sounds like the Marine Corps, the philosophies there
really inspired you to continue the work outs.

Lee: Absolutely.

Alexis: It sounds like you kind of answered some of these questions
already, but I’m just kind of curious. Have you seen from your
experience working with people collectively, are people starting
to get more in shape now, as opposed to like five to ten years
ago, or are people a little more sedentary? What do you see?
What have you been seeing?

Lee: What I’ve seen personally, and this is just from my own experience,
not based on any national averages or what anybody else would
say, is that I have seen an increase in physical activity
lately, within the past five or ten years. Because a lot of the
health risks, they are no secret any more, and people are very
aware of them. Just about anybody knows somebody who has been
affected by a health risk or a disease due to having high blood
pressure, high cholesterol from smoking, from not being active,
from being overweight or not eating well.

So, it’s definitely seemed to catch on lately and people are starting
to kind of turn the corner. So, it’s moving in the right
directly from my knowledge and from what I have been witnessing,
at least in the Greater Boston area. So, it’s very encouraging
in that respect. But, it doesn’t speak for the entire country,
other regions demographically. There are some areas where it
has been declining, but not so much up in here.

Alexis: Right, right. So, I’m sure you are pretty busy, because in New
England a lot of people are usually on the go.

Lee: Absolutely.

Alexis: It’s really valuable to find someone who can really kind of
help them get motivated.

Lee: That’s my job.

Alexis: Definitely. Since a lot of our audience members are teens, can
you tell us a little bit, can you tell us why it may be
important for say, a teenager, to start exercising at a young

Lee: Absolutely! Well, as far as a teenager is concerned, actually a lot
of kids participate in sports, but not all do. Participating in
a recreational or competitive sport is very helpful to be
physically active and to be moving around and to prevent and
reduce a lot of these risk factors of a lot of these disease and
all these issues caused by not being active.

But, it’s great to start as early as possible, at a younger age,
because it reduces a lot of the risk factors later on in life.
So typically speaking, children and teenagers who are obese or
sedentary, these lifestyle factors and these habits spill over
into their adult life as well. So, by systematically changing
that pattern and those habits at a younger age, it does help to
reinforce later on in life a healthy lifestyle, an active
lifestyle, as well as not having to try to play catch-up in your
40s or 50s when it’s almost too late, and your doctor told you
that you are in a really bad place physically and now you have
to do all this physical activity and try to basically reverse as
much of the damage done in your lifestyle as possible in a short
amount of time.

So, by catching it early on, it’s ideal and it doesn’t have to be
over the top or crazy. The American College of Sports Medicine’s
recommendation is that at the very least you need to have,
everybody needs to have, at least 30 minutes of physical
activity on most days of the week. So, that four days a week
range. And that’s just a bare minimum, that’s just to reduce the
risk of a lot of these life threatening diseases.

And a lot of people do get at least that, and physical activity can
be anything from playing basketball, outside walking around,
anything of that nature, jogging, etc., dancing. But the younger
you start, the better, ideally.

Alexis: Right, right. And without giving away all your tips and
secrets, can you kind of like paint a little picture of what you
might do during a session with say, a teenager, to keep them
kind of motivated, versus like working with one of your adult

Lee: Definitely, and the younger the age, the more different it has to be,
because like with children for example, it’s very difficult
because you have to make any physical activity seem like play.
You want a child to grow and develop the right concepts about
being healthy and having a healthy lifestyle without pushing
them into thinking it’s a chore, and they will lose interest and
not want to do it. So, it’s always like play with kids.

With teenagers, it all depends what their personality is like and
what they enjoy doing. There are tons of different ways to do
cardio, tons of different ways to strength train, different ways
to do flexibility training. So, some people like to play
basketball, some people like to run, some people like to ski,
some people like to swim, etc. Some people don’t even know what
they like because they are not physically active enough.

With teens, I introduce as many different activities as I possibly
can and try to find out what sticks and what they enjoy the
most, and that has the highest rate of success. So, trying to
get somebody to do something they absolutely dread and hate on a
day to day basis is very, very difficult, and is not a realistic
long term solution to being physically active.

Alexis: Absolutely. Yes, that makes a lot of sense. In kind of looking
at some of the older demographics and getting them to work out,
what are some tips you have for people who say, might struggle
getting off the couch? We have so much eye-candy out there with
the reality television, just kind of sucking you onto that couch
and watching for hours. What would you suggest?

Lee: As far as…taking the first step is the hardest part. Getting into
an exercise regimen, a fitness routine, the hardest part is the
beginning. Once you basically start maintaining and getting the
momentum moving, it’s a lot easier to carry on and you basically
train your body and your mind to get used to the physical
activity. So, that first step is literally, just getting off the

The whole concept, like couch to 5K, once you get started, the
hardest part, the first four weeks is generally the hardest
part, and after that it really does start to get easier. You
start to feel better on a day to day basis. Your mind, your
whole attitude towards things changes, and when you start to see
changes and results, especially in your emotions, it really is
encouraging, as well as in your body.

So, it really is just that first step, walking in the right
direction, even stepping foot into a gym or going outside on a
walk. Never try to bite off more than you can chew or do too
much too fast. Easing into any type of regimen is the best way
that has the highest rate of success, and sitting on the couch
for extended periods of time really is the American Way, and
it’s absolutely awful and something we really need to change.

Alexis: I’m sure that you’ve given tips to some of the more sedentary
clients that you have, so do you offer them, the people who are
kind of like working until the late hours and don’t really have
that exercise time, do you offer any tips for what you can do
just in your house? Like in front of the TV or something?

Lee: There’s a lot of different things that people can do, just with a
little bit of space. The number of exercises, the number of
workouts you can do in a small amount of space is limitless. One
of the things with not having enough time, and this is something
I hear a lot, people not having the time to work out, it’s a
very common excuse. Because most people who don’t have time to
work out due to their work schedule, have time to do a lot of
other things that are not related to them actually being at

People have time to watch television, for example. People have time
to go to sporting events. People have time, you know Patriots
game, Red Sox game, which is great, and I enjoy that, too. But,
a lot of people also can wake up earlier, just a little bit
earlier, just half an hour earlier can be something just to get
a body moving.

People who go to work until very, very late, that is understandable
as well, but even during lunch, if you have a two hour lunch
break, there is no reason why you can’t put on some sneakers and
go outside and do something. As far as the space in your house
goes, trying to get just some full-body workouts in, in a living
room is still something that can be done, just with some of the
furniture that is around you and is accessible to you. So, more
times than not, with people who don’t believe that they have
time, if you really reevaluate your work schedule, you can find
ways to squeeze in half an hour here and there during the week.

Alexis: That’s really inspiring to hear. In the whole talk about people
making excuses, it’s so true. I mean, there is 24 hours in a
day, right?

Lee: Absolutely. I mean we can all make excuses, every single one of us.

Alexis: Absolutely. Okay, well that sounds awesome. I really, really
appreciate you coming on and sharing your expertise with
everyone. Thank you so much, Lee!

Lee: My pleasure, Alexis. Thank you for having me.

Alexis: Sure. Okay, well this wraps our show today with Lee Kennon of
Kennon Fitness. Please visit I’m going to
spell this for the audience, it’s K-E-double N-O-N fitness dot
com, to learn more about Lee’s company. And if you want to
change your life in a dramatic way, where you will feel healthy
both inside and out, I highly recommend calling Lee. Thank you
for joining us on the Prepped and Polish Radio Show.

Do you have difficulty getting off the couch and staying motivated? Care to comment on Lee’s tips and advice for keeping teenagers healthy in today’s fast-paced society?

Post your tips/comments below.

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September 20th, 2012
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Children and Adult Well-Being, Podcast, Radio Interviews
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Episode 2: David Poles, How Teenagers Can Stay Happy in Today’s Society

Teenager Happiness and Well-Being
On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, Alexis Avila interviews David Poles, founder of Newton Counseling Center in Newton Center, Massachusetts. David talks about the struggles adolescents face today, and discusses some of the ways in which teens can find happiness and peace during those turbulent adolescent years.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Dennis Poles is a Massachusetts Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Announcer: Recorded live.Alexis: Hello, and thanks for joining us for the Prepped and Polished
Radio Show. I’m you’re host, Alexis Avila, licensed guidance
counselor, private tutor, and founder of Prepped and Polished,
LLC Tutoring and Test Prep in beautiful South Natick,

The Prepped and Polished Radio Show is your educational insider. Our
show is brought to you by Prepped and Polished, LLC, where I am
the principal educator. To learn more about our firm, please
visit Thank you to everyone who is
listening to the program. We appreciate you taking an interest
in the information we bring to families and educators around the

For future shows, up-to-date information, and on-going educational
news, please joint our Facebook community by searching for
Prepped and Polished and then clicking “like” and you can follow
us on Twitter, the hashtag is @PreppedPolished.

Joining our show today is David Poles. David it the founder of
Newton Counseling Center in Newton Center, Massachusetts, where
he helps other grows to maximize their full potential. David is
a licensed mental health counselor, certified rehabilitation
counselor, and a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.

Since 1995, David has committed his professional life to assisting
clients in becoming more successful. One of David’s specialties
is helping late-age adolescent males learn how to reduce painful
emotions while staying sober.

We are delighted to have David on our show. He is going to share with
us about what’s going on today with teens, give us some tips on
how teenagers can stay sober, stay happy, especially through
those turbulent adolescent years.

Now, before we start, I just want to make sure our listeners have our
contact info. Our e-mail address is If you would like to submit a
question at any time, you can use that e-mail address. Often
our listeners will have questions while they are listening or
afterwards. We always appreciate hearing from our listeners, so
you can e-mail us at any time at

Okay, David, are you on the line?

David: Yes, I am. Good morning.

Alexis: Good morning, good morning. Thank you so much for joining us.
How are you doing today?

David: Good. Thank you, Alexis, for having me.

Alexis: Good, good. So, tell me something. Newton seems to be a pretty
safe, happening town. Do you actually have a lot of teenagers in
Newton who are actually dealing with anger issues.

David: Well, actually, yes. There is a large amount of drug use that
takes place in the suburbs, and Newton certainly isn’t exempt
from that. And unmanageable emotions usually go with drug use,
depression, anger, anxiety, so unfortunately, yes, that is part
of the landscape of probably most affluent communities. It
doesn’t discriminate, drug use, and anger can certainly go with

Alexis: That’s really interesting, because it seems like the stigma
with the drug use is, you know, we hear about it in the inner
cities, but to hear that it goes over to the suburbs is

David: Oh, absolutely.

Alexis: So, David, can you start out a little bit by telling us about
what is Newton Counseling Center, and what motivated you to
start your own practice.

David: Sure. It’s a one person, one man operation. I’m the owner, and
I have one employee, that’s myself, and I’ve been interested in
owning my own business since going to graduate school at UMass
Boston when I started there in 1998. I had thought about
private practice. I think many of us getting into this field of
psychology aspire to that, and then we get experience from
working at various locations, working for somebody. So, that has
always been an interest of mine since going to graduate school.

I first worked in the field of Social Services in 1995 after I got my
undergraduate degree. I worked for a DYS facility on Cape Cod
at an Upward Bound program in Brewster, so that exposed me to
working with adolescents, and I’ve worked at a variety of
locations. I’ve worked at a homeless shelter for men, I’ve
worked at a substance abuse treatment program at a hospital, but
in terms of wanting to work for myself, I think that is
something many of us aspire to when we are in graduate school,
and not all of us do. It’s a different skill set, certainly,
learning how to be a business person versus just providing the
services, and it’s excited.

Alexis: Absolutely. Yes, definitely. I had a chance actually in the
last couple of months to see your space, and it’s just a
beautiful space, and I’m sure your patients love opening up to
you there.

David: They certainly seem pretty happy there. It’s MBTA accessible
and it’s accessible for clients with disabilities. I had one
gentleman who used a wheelchair and he was able to get in and
out of there pretty easily.

Alexis: That’s great. That’s always helpful. So, I just wanted to pick
your brain a little bit about teens. Now, is helping teenage
males to overcome anger and to stay sober, is it as stressful a
task as I think it is. Because, I don’t think I could do it
myself, so I commend you. How do you help teenagers with their

David: Sure, well it’s certainly challenging, but it’s not impossible.
But, I try not to operate in a vacuum. I stress the importance
of having parental assistance as well, because I think part of
the job is giving them education and support so that they can
guide their clients. If it’s pertaining to substance abuse,
certainly I see a lot of enabling, so part of my job is to
educate them. As far as working with the clients, no, it’s
challenging but it’s rewarding.

Alexis: Definitely.

David: Did that answer your question?

Alexis: Yeah, absolutely it sure did. Now, I’m sure you’ve seen the
problems teenagers deal with evolve over the years, especially
since you started in the early 2000s. I mean, at least I’ve
observed that teenagers are a lot of different from when I was a
teen. Now, have you seen a change in teens over the past 10
years? I mean, are the problems they face today the same, or
are they different?

David: Well, that’s a good question Alexis. I was thinking about that.
I even went back to 1995, when I first entered the field of
social services, and I thought about the issues that teens dealt
with back then versus now, and there are a lot of similarities.
Drug use certainly is still an issue, peer pressure, conflicts
with parents, adolescents being rebellious, hormonal changes,
that is still the same.

Alexis: Right, right.

David: Now, there are different types of drug available.

Alexis: Really?

David: Well, when I was working in 1995, with the population I worked
with, there wasn’t as much focus on opiates as there is now.
There’s pretty wide-spread usage of various opiates like
Oxycontin and Percocet and heroin, so I don’t remember seeing
that as much. I’d say also similarly definitely a lot of
problems can be traced back to the home, in terms of parenting.
Not to blame anybody, but parents certainly have a major role in
terms of how things are going with the child.

Alexis: Right.

David: So, that’s the good news, too. They can be very influential,
they can set better boundaries with adolescents, and through
education, that certainly can take place. As far as differences,
obviously there are more in terms of technology that is out
there, Facebook and Twitter and texting, things like that. That
certainly wasn’t around back then.

Alexis: And podcasts.

David: And podcasts, like this, right! And maybe, more pressure too
with the economy. I think there is a lot of pressure on kids now
from their parents in order to help them get into good schools,
more of a focus on grades and more than ever it is so important
to think about one’s future with the economy and whatnot, so
that’s probably a big difference too, if we are talking about
changes between then and now.

Alexis: Definitely, definitely. Do you, just a quick follow-up, would
like one of your suggestions to a student who is just kind of
maybe struggling with anger and is kind of subjected to the
Facebook, Twitter, is one of your suggestions to him maybe to
put that aside and allocate some time away from these
technological mediums?

David: Sure, if that is a trigger for the person’s anger. I have one
client right now who is a pretty temperamental guy. He is in his
early 20s, but one of the things that he does historically when
he has gotten angry, is he’s done a lot venting via Facebook,
and it’s gotten to the point where it can be abusive towards
others. So, that is something that he should not be doing. I
have some tips here, in terms of how an adolescent can manager
his or her anger. I can get into those if you want.

Alexis: Oh yeah, yeah, let’s do that in a little bit.

David: Okay, sure.

Alexis: Actually, I don’t really know how to phrase this question, but
we do have a guest on this show who texted us a couple fragments
of a question, so I’m going to try to piece-meal these together.

David: All right.

Alexis: Guest #3 on our show made a comment that some people go through
adolescence, from childhood to adulthood in one day. Have you
witnessed this. So, I don’t know if that’s an answerable
question. Are kids growing up fast now, I guess is the

David: Oh, well I think so, in some ways they are. Kids, adolescents,
they are very bright, they are exposed to more now than I ever
was at that age. They are bright, they are more prepared for
college, more exposed to the good and bad in the media. So, in
some ways, yes, they do grow up a lot sooner, sure.

Alexis: Wow.

David: That can be a good thing. It’s a double edged sword. It depends
on the upbringing, too. Like, a child in an abuse upbringing or
where parents are always fighting, they are forced to grow up in
some ways that aren’t healthy, and they are exposed to substance
abuse or mental illness, or domestic violence. They are forced
to grow up in a hurry and a lot of it all goes back to the
parents and how the kids are raised. So, yes, in some ways that
is true, sure.

Alexis: Yes. That really resonates. It makes a lot of sense. David,
what are some general tips that you can offer teenagers that are
trying to stay happy, stay grounded through those turbulent,
confusing, adolescent years. I don’t know about you, but I wish
I had some tips through my adolescent years. It’s a confusing
time. But, what do you tend to do? What are some tips that you
can give teens?

David: Sure. Well, it’s so important for teens to have someone to talk
to, ideally the parents. For example, maybe finding a time that
the teen and his or her parents can be comfortable and relaxed
together, make sure that there’s no distraction that the two of
them can talk. That is certainly one tip for maybe improving the
relationship with a teen’s parents. Let’s see, it’s important
to have healthy friendships, knowing who it is that you hang out
with, having hobbies, doing what you want, being passionate,
having goals, sports. Those are certainly ways to improve one’s
happiness as a teen.

Alexis: Let me just ask you a quick question. What if the student is
really not athletic? Maybe he is athletic but he really doesn’t
want to get up at 7:00 AM on Sunday to go to those football
practices, because you know with athletics you have to be very
committed. Are there other opportunities for some of these
students to stay motivated and not have to do a varsity sport

David: Sure. I have one client. I’ve worked with him since he was a
teen and one of the things he got into was band, music, he got
involved in that. Nowadays, schools are offering a variety of
clubs that someone can join, so I don’t think you are just
limited to sports.

Alexis: Right.

David: I think a lot of it…I don’t mean to be repetitive, but I
think the parents can be very influential, too. Sometimes
parents can be very judgmental and really try to force things on
a teen. So, I think if the parents are cultivating a liberal and
open-minded perspective as far as whatever it is the teen wants
to do, assuming it’s healthy, then I think that should be the
premise of allowing the teen to want to explore some different

Alexis: Absolutely.

David: It could be reading, it could be music, it doesn’t have to be

Alexis: That’s really interesting. That’s enlightening. Well, thank you
very much, David. That was very helpful, and that wraps up our
show for today, with David Poles, Newton Counseling Center.

Now, please visit to learn more about
David’s practice, and while you are there, I highly encourage
you to ask David to add you as a subscriber to his informative
and inspirational newsletters. I get them myself about once or
twice a month, and I tell you, he gives you tips on how to stay
happy for both teenagers and adults, and it’s very encouraging.
I really appreciate those newsletters, David.

David: Thank you, Alexis. I appreciate you taking the time to have me
on your show.

Alexis: Sure, any time. Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us on
the Prepped and Polished Radio Show.

How have the problems teenagers face today changed over the past decade? Care to share some of your advice/tips for keeping teenagers safe and happy in today’s fast-paced society?

Post your tips/comments below.

Subscribe to our Blog Feed

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September 12th, 2012
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Children and Adult Well-Being, Featured, Podcast, Radio Interviews
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Episode 1: Dennis Charles, How to Land your Dream Career

Dennis Charles
On this episode of Prepped & Polished Radio, Alexis Avila interviews Dennis Charles of Boston-based Charles Career Mentoring. Dennis talks about job trends today and how young professionals can stand out in the job market.

Tutoring and Test Preparation
Dennis Charles holds Masters in Educational Psychology from Loughborough University in the UK. Prior to this role, Dennis was a high school teacher and professional soccer player and coach.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Announcer: Recorded Live.Alexis: Hello and thanks for joining us for the Prepped and Polished
Radio Show. I’m your host Alexis Avila, licensed guidance
counselor, private tutor, and founder of Prepped and Polished

Tutoring and test preparation in beautiful South Natick,
Massachusetts. The Prepped and Polished Radio Show is your
educational insider. Our show is brought to you by Prepped and
Polished LLC where I’m the principal educator. To learn more
about our firm you can visit

And thank you to everyone who’s listening to the program. We
appreciate you taking in interest in the information we bring
the families and educators all around the globe. For future
shows, updates and on going relevant education news. Please join
our Facebook community by searching for Prepped and Polished and
clicking like. Or you can follow us on Twitter which is

Joining our show today is Dennis Charles. Dennis is founder of
Boston based firm, Charles Career Mentoring. Where he builds
careers with passion. Dennis is originally from the home of this
years Olympics, East London.

Prior to this role Dennis was a high school teacher, a professional
soccer player. He has a Masters in Educational Psychology, and
is a proud graduate of, and he’ll help me pronounce this later
Loughborough University in the UK. We’re delighted to have
Dennis on our show. He’s going to share with us about what’s
going today in the job market. Give us some tips on how you can
land your dream job, especially for young professionals.

Before we start I just want to make sure listeners have our contact
information. Our email address is
If you’d like to submit a question at any time, you can use
that email address. Often our listeners will have questions as
they’re listening or afterwards so we always appreciate hearing
from our listeners. So you can email us any time at Hey Dennis, are you on the line

Dennis: I’m here with you Alexis. How are you doing today.

Alexis: Good, thanks so much for joining us. How was your weekend?

Dennis: My weekend was fantastic, I was actually down in New Jersey. I
have a lot of family…

Alexis: Great.

Dennis: And thanks so much for having me on the show, I really, really
appreciate it. It’s great to be here.

Alexis: Well, I had the pleasure to meet you quite a few times at
networking conferences and I’m really impressed with how you
relate to young people. And I just wanted see if you could tell
us, start out by telling us a little bit about Charles Career
Mentoring, and how you came up with your company?

Dennis: Absolutely. I’ve been really doing mentoring and coaching and
training for my entire life through various [inaudible 03:02] I
was a former high school teacher. As you mentioned, I used to
be a professional soccer coach. And worked in summer camps for
a number of years as well. The whole time I was really working
with young people, and young people being anywhere from probably
5 years old up to 25 years old.

And one of the things I’ve really always loved doing was helping them
figure out what they wanted to be doing with their lives.
Whether it was younger end of that spectrum, just what were they
interested in. What was fun for them, up into the older ones.
What did they want to be doing in college.

Whether they wanted to be going into college or maybe taking some
time out before they went to college. And once they graduated
from, helping them with their career direction. Helping them
really get out there. Get a job that for them was fulfilling, in
which they can be successful and which they can be satisfied and
they can make a contribution to the world.

And so about five or six years ago I said, you know what. I’m going
to make a go of this and I began to build a private practice and
really enjoyed it over the last five or six years. Just helping
out young people, helping them get into the world and really
making a difference through the work that they do.

Alexis: Well that’s amazing. And you’re making a difference for sure.
What have you seen in the last five years since you’ve started
your practice with the job trends, especially today?

Dennis: Well it’s really been interesting times, the economy’s kind of
been here and there and everywhere. When I first started off it
was a case of you got the job, you got the career, you got the
credential, and then you could go out and market and sell
yourself, and companies would almost be fighting over themselves
to hire you. Then of course you went into the recession 2007
-2008 and things changed dramatically. Companies were slashing

New hires, even interns weren’t getting paid what they were getting.
New hires were getting significantly less income that they were
maybe five or ten years ago. And what I really realized was
those who were being successful were able to standout a little
bit and really able to demonstrate that if a company were to
take a risk to hire them that they could deliver value. I think
ten years ago would hire 100 recruits and hope that 40 would
work out.

Now they’re looking at really targeting the 40 recruits and knowing
that those 40 they’re going to hire they’re going to work with
and stick with. So the hiring process for people coming out of
high school, coming out of college has changed dramatically.
This idea about what the value I can deliver is absolutely huge
for people.

Alexis: Oh definitely. And I totally hear you said at the beginning
when you started five, six years ago. There were companies
fighting for clients, now obviously tables have turned a little
bit. We have clients trying to fight other clients for jobs,

Dennis: Absolutely, yep, yep.

Alexis: So, now this is where you I’m sure that you I’m sure that you
shine because you are a career expert. But without giving all
your secrets away, because I definitely encourage listeners to
sign up for Dennis’s program. But what tips if any do you have
for standing out in the job market?

Dennis: The one thing that I hammer away over and over again with the
clients I work with about the private clients and those that
come to my training are really develop an entrepreneurial
mindset. Now what does that mean? Even if you’re going to go
work and get hired for another company. You really need to
consider: what is the value that you’re going to be delivering?

Why should that company, first of all, hire you? And then consider,
given your responsibility, and then consider promoting you. And
I believe that comes from having an entrepreneurial mindset. So
going in and not just saying all right, this is my job
description, I’m going to do it. But just taking that as the
basis. Going in to an organization, going into a company and
saying this is my job description and what else can I offer.

Where do my skills lay, what’s the value added that I offer, because
time and time again, Alexis. I see those that have gone in and
interned in a company, have got great, great references are the
ones going on and getting hired maybe above those that maybe got
better grades throughout high school and college. Those that
have really gone in and made a difference within a company, an
organization. Been able to demonstrate that, been able to
communicate that to a potential employee are the ones getting

Alexis: Yes, that makes sense. So just kind of having just a little bit
more of the networking mindset as well.

Dennis: Absolutely. Really get out there and build your network. And
networks are a funny thing. Of course again, the last five or
six years we’ve seen social media explode where those that are
on Twitter, on Facebook. You may have 1500 friends on Facebook,
but that to me Alexis, is not really networking.

I would rather see somebody with eight really solid contacts then
1500 random, spread out contacts, who most of whom they’ve never
met in their life. But if you had five to eight really solid
dependable contacts that you could be networking with in your
chosen field. And you really developed those relationships and
put depth into those relationships and demonstrated that you are
a person of substance with those people. Then that’s going to
really help you with your leverage.

Now there’s a statistic out there that 3% of all jobs that are filled
are not actually advertised. So they’re not getting out and
into, we’re talking old school, but they’re not getting out into
the news paper. They’re not getting out to Monster, but they’re
actually either hired within, or they’re positions that become
available and people know through various networks. I’m looking
for a position as a graphic designer. Oh, I know a really great
graphic designer, you should call John.

So if we’re looking at only 17% of jobs and careers coming from
advertisements. You want to really be focused on that 83%, and
as you say, networking and building that, as I call it, that
bridging capital, is really something that is going to be
essential and crucial going forward.

Alexis: That is cool. Sign me up. So now this might be sort of a
redundant question. You know when I go outside you see people
who are just struggling to find a job. So what are maybe like a
couple tips that come to mind if you see somebody coming into
your office just really struggling. Like maybe she’s shy, who’s
knows. But just is kind of firing blanks. What would you say?

Dennis: This is a typical thing I see and this is not everybody, but if
this is very common, is that they’re casting their net far too
widely. They’re saying, I just want a job. Well, that’s not
particularly appealing to potential employee. So what I do get
them to focus down and narrow down.

I’ll sit down and through a process of investigation I’ll find out
where a potential clients skills are. I’ll find out where a
particular clients interests are, and really work out a specific
strategic plan from there. Because as you say a lot of people
are floundering around or fumbling around. But it’s very
difficult to hire someone, just imagine that you’re working for
an [accounting] company, and you just want any job. You’re
probably not going to get hired.

But if you’re hiring in an accounting company and somebody comes in
with the qualifications, with the desire, and says, one of the
things I really love about [accountancy] is just at the end of
the day when I really get those numbers right, and I can really
deliver great service to a client. In fact, I had an internship
six months ago with a particular company, and I just really
loved the client interface, the one to one. That was the thing
that really got me going.

The person is going to get hired. The person that shows up and says,
maybe I want a career in accountancy, maybe I just want to get
hired, please hire me. It kind of smacks like desperation.

So, one of the things I’ll do Alexis, is really get them laser
focused in an area. And work from there. Come up with a plan
from there. So if their interest is in computers that such a
broad field. But again it’s far too general.

What is your specific interest in computers? What are the skills you
have, what are the skills that you can learn, and what’s the
value, getting back to that entrepreneurial mindset? What’s the
value you’re going to be able to go in and demonstrate that you
can deliver to a potential employer?

Alexis: Well that’s amazing. I like the fact that just focusing really
with laser like vision, and just kind of pursuing it with
everything you’ve got.

Dennis: It’s one of those things. I’m a big sports fan, and I find it’s
always [inaudible 12:15] successful in sports are the ones that
are specialize. You know we have very specialized sports over in
the U.S. We have a guy that’s maybe 300 pounds. He doesn’t say,
I’m going to try out for the gymnastics team. I’m going to try
for the triathlon team. I’m going to try out for the sprinting
team. He say’s, 300 pounds.

I can probably be a really good line backer on the foot ball team.
Let me put my attention, and focus my attention for three or
four, five years on being a line backer, and he’s going to have
much more success. My guess is a 300 pound guy is not going to
be very, very good at arrhythmic gymnastics, so why put your
attention there.

Alexis: Absolutely. I guess my last question is if you could just share
with us a success story that you recently had.

Dennis: Yeah, last week I had got a text message from one of my
clients, because one of the ways I work, I like to work in real
time. So I’ll use a lot of Skype, I’ll use a lot of email.
I’ll use text, I’ll use phone calls, and of course I’ll use face-
to-face. And this guy’s a remote client. He’s out in the
Midwest, really nice guy. But just been struggling to find a
career that for him is fulfilling. He’s able to make the
financial end work, but he’s just kind of running into a series
of dead-end jobs. He found it difficult to wake up in the
morning and to get himself motivated.

Alexis: And how old was this guy?

Dennis: He’s in his late 20’s.

Alexis: Late 20’s, Okay.

Dennis: And in many respects, very similar to a recent grad in that he
hadn’t just really found that thing that made him come alive. So
we really focused on what he wanted to be doing. And what he
really wanted to be doing was a lot of customer service. Working
with customers in the entertainment industry.

So for the last six weeks I just had him out and networking and
building up his skills. Interfacing face to face, one to one,
and I get a text message I think it was last Monday. He says,
you got to call me now. I think I was with another client. So I
call him back a half an hour later and I say what’s going on. I
got a job, I got a job, I got a job. He was so pumped and so
excited, and it’s an entry level job, and so in his late 20’s.

One of the things he said was it’s not his perfect career, but it’s a
place where he can begin to leapfrog onto his perfect career. So
for him now the thing is to do. Now he’s got this position, now
how can he demonstrate that when a more senior position within
this organization becomes available that he should be the one to
be hired. That’s the work that we’re going to be focusing on.

Alexis: Wow. Not only is it a success story, but it hasn’t stopped.

Dennis: Yeah, absolutely. And really it never does. I think you know,
one of the things, Alexis, that I see with skilled people, even
folks like Richard Branson from my country most people know him
from the Virgin organization. He has coaches, he has mentors,
he has trusted advisers.

He doesn’t believe that he can do this alone. He works with others
to get input. And ultimately while he takes responsibility and
makes decisions himself, he doesn’t do so until he gets a
significant amount of input. One of the stories when he started
Virgin Atlantic Airlines he went to a guy that had been running
an airline for the last 15 years. A guy named Freddie Laker in
the U.K. And said, can you help me. And this guy said Freddie
Laker kind of really mentored him for the first three years of
building up his airline.

Alexis, one of the things that I’ll say about America is that we love
to do things, were autonomous, we’re independent, we love to do
things on our own and for ourselves and there’s tremendous value
in that. I think that reaching out and getting help,
particularly in regards to careers, with regards to academic
help which I know you do at Prepped and Polished as well. Just
that reaching out and getting help at the right time, it really
can make a difference.

Alexis: Well said. Well this is great. Thank you so much. I think it’s
really evident that the way that you approach every relationship
is just with your methodical, strategic, and you just infuse
passion into your students and your clients and really make a
difference. I know you deliver, so thank you so much.

Dennis: It was my absolute pleasure talking with you Alexis. Thanks so
much for inviting me on, and thanks so much for having the
conversation. I think it’s really important work we both do.
And I really appreciate you taking the time to reach out. Thank

Alexis: Oh yeah, my pleasure. Well thank you. This wraps up our show
today with Dennis Charles, founder of Charles Career Mentoring.
Please visit to learn more about Dennis’s
company, and while you’re there, definitely sign up for his
informative newsletter. I get it, it’s excellent. Thank you
again for joining us Dennis, and thank you for joining us on the
Prepped and Polished Radio Show, we’ll talk to you soon.

Care to share your job searching experiences? What was one of Dennis’ career tips that resonated the most?

Post your tips/comments below.

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July 30th, 2012
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College and Career, Podcast, Radio Interviews
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