Students from Sentinel Career and Technology Center were encouraged to give a smile and in return to get a smile Wednesday.
Jim Cantoni is co-founder of Creative Concepts and GivaGetta Inc. of Glastonbury, Conn.
Cantoni uses the power of self-discovery to engage, equip and empower young people to help them achieve greater life outcomes, he said.
"I don't think that I will ever put on an engagement to this scale. It will definitely test my abilities," Cantoni said of speaking to all of the morning students.
Cantoni used several evidence-based research methods. He used the power of smile to first interact with students to allow them to see the power their smiles have on others.
"I am honored and humbled to be in the presence of an elite group of young people and it is the first time I am in front of a National School of Character," Cantoni said.
He uses several Albert Einstein-inspired and -infused formulas to connect with students. One formula is "e to the second power," meaning to synchronize energy and experience for youth to overcome obstacles and build capacity for exponential learning, so youth can learn the easy way.
Cantoni enforced the rule that students should begin to learn about life the easy way.
At 24, Cantoni was involved in a boating accident that resulted in the loss of his right eye.
"Because of this life-changing decision, I had to learn the hard way and I want to inform young people to go through life learning the easy way," Cantoni said.
Cantoni's wife, Jackie, is also a co-founder of GivaGeta Inc. As a young girl, she would dot her "i" with a smiley face. One day in 2003, she came up with the idea that she should spread her smiles, kindness and understanding throughout the world.
Cantoni speaks to thousands of people nationwide.
The activities that he led students in are recent discoveries in positive psychology and neuroscience.
"I want students to use the front of their brain," Cantoni said.
He gets inspiration from who he claims to be "the greatest people to walk this planet" - including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Einstein.
Students were divided into groups from other programs and were asked to participate in several interactive games with the use of cards with quotes and sayings on them. The cards are called the Worlds Kindest Playing cards and were created by Jim Cantoni Jr., Cantoni's son. At age 9, Jim Jr., came up with the idea to put kindness messages on cards as another way to inspire positive thinking.
Cantoni and his wife have another son, Nathan, who is blind, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and communicates with smiles and giggles. The GivaGeta Foundation was created in his honor to help others with special needs.
"I hope to inspire potential in youth to achieve greater life outcomes and realize their dreams. I want to create a better legacy than myself. The youth are our future," Cantoni said.
One student's dream is to be a firefighter. Chris Smalley, of Bettsville, told Cantoni his presentation opened his eyes about a lot of things.
Cantoni shared another student's experience with the group. A female student had been called a name and took inspiration to forgive the name-callers, to look the other way and grow. Cantoni said she told him, "I think that they will be nicer to me from now on."
"This definitely got students out of their comfort zone," Sentinel Director Elissa Heal said.
Last, students were given their very own Declaration of Independence to help them realize their dreams and potential.
They were asked to recite the declaration out loud: "I realize the dream and my dreams of achieving greater life outcomes ... and give back by inspiring and helping other students reach their potential and realize their dreams."