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Guest speaker comes with positive message to Villanova

Sam Demma sits on stage with a large prop (a oversized backpack with a patch with the "EMPTY" written upside down).


A motivational speaker that travels the country made a stop in the Windsor-Essex County area, including a local school.

Sam Demma appeared at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School twice last Wednesday, once during the day for Grade 11 and 12 students and once in the evening for the general public. Speaking on topics such as balance, resilience and self-discovery, Demma spoke for roughly one-hour during the evening session where he outlined his background, how he overcame challenges in his life and offered his advice to youth and adults.

The 24-year-old Pickering, Ontario native came on the stage in the school’s theatre wearing a large backpack.

“I believe every one of us has a giant backpack,” he said, adding people “pick things up” that bring people down or pick them up along their journey through life.

“We have no idea what people are carrying in their backpacks,” he said. “Check in on folks.”

Demma has spoken in schools and in online gatherings, recalling a story from the latter where he asked a youth what their goals were. One youth replied that he wished he had 50,000 social media followers so people would stop bullying him.

“I couldn’t get that comment out of my mind,” said Demma.

Demma added he kept in touch with the youth and let him know “people’s words about you don’t define your net worth.”

Another story told was about a family vacation to South America, where Demma recalled trying to dance with a young woman. After the dance didn’t go well the first night and she started dancing with another youth, he said he worked on learning how to dance and would return to the banquet hall where nightly dances were held. He would eventually get the confidence to dance with her again and did so for five consecutive nights.

Demma explained he had a love of dancing he would often hide previous to that, and not even tell friends at home.

“Instead of doing what I wanted to do, I would sit on the bench and watch everyone else,” he said. “It’s never too late to start something. Pursue the things you are passionate about.”

Parents were encouraged to let their children follow their passions and dreams.

“Let them explore. Let them fail. Let them try things,” said Demma.

Sharing kind words were also encouraged, with Demma telling a story of when he was playing soccer in Europe and was assisted after getting money stolen. He also recalled a story of simply getting on a bus and being encouraged by the bus driver, who was singing.

Demma turned to motivational speaking after multiple knee injuries derailed his soccer career. He said the first knee injury didn’t keep him down as he attempted a comeback but when his soccer career ended, it opened up a door for new opportunities. Recalling being told by a teacher to take “small consistent actions,” he also helped found an organization that cleaned up trash in his neighbourhood.

Noting he started public speaking when he was 19-years-old, Demma estimated he speaks at 130-140 schools per year. He was at several Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board schools last week and will soon travel to Arkansas. He added he has started acting classes with the hope of reaching young people through movies and television, as well as with larger live event talks.

Demma has travelled through Canada and the United States and plans a 30-school tour through Kenya this summer. He is also a best-selling author and recipient of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.

“At some point, I’ll move out of my parents’ basement,” he joked.

More information on Demma can be found at The event was sponsored by Villanova’s Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). Guest speaker comes with positive message to Villanova

By Ron Giofu

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