From an angry and explosive teen to an Award Winning Keynote Speaker, Gabriel has learned that it is how we reflect on our past experiences that defines who we are and how we view the world around us. After barely graduating from high school, Gabriel enlisted in the US Army, seeking a fresh start and hoping to find some self-discipline and a new direction in life.
Seven months into his enlistment, while stationed overseas in Germany, Gabriel was diagnosed with stage 3B testicular cancer. He underwent heavy cycles of chemotherapy, several major surgeries and dozens of minor procedures during his three years in treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington DC. Though he is now deemed cancer free, he lives with the knowledge that he has a 65% chance of the cancer returning, making every day he wakes up, one he is driven to capitalize upon. The days spent wondering whether he would live or die gave him a newfound perspective and appreciation for life.
A graduate of Western Michigan University in Film and Creative Writing, Gabriel now sees everything in life through a different lens. Though he never intended to share his past experiences on stage in front of strangers, Gabriel discovered that his words and his story of survival connected powerfully with other people and became a way for him to cope with and learn from his past experiences. He found that sharing his stories enabled others to explore and learn from their own.
Gabriel brings an amazing and rare perspective of the world, having lived in three countries and seven US States. His travels, combined with his reflection of cancer survival, military experience, and life experience have enabled him to write on topics with unique vulnerability not commonly explored or talked about by other speakers and performers. While in high school, Gabriel was voted “class bully” and “class poet” of his graduating class. These two battling sides of himself, gave him an interesting perspective of the world and an understanding about those who lash out and how they can find new coping methods that have worked effectively for him. Gabriel has discovered that by simply sharing his stories and speaking the truth he sees around him, others are inspired to share their own stories, making his presentations very real, honest, and accessible regardless of age, class, gender or nationality.
Now dressed in slacks, dress shirt and tie, few would recognize the history of a violent fighter in Kirk Latimer. A past filled with aggression inside and outside the ring, led Kirk to turn his anger from his color-trunked opponents toward himself, resulting in his arrest at the age of sixteen. He continued a cycle of vengeance and retribution until his senior year of high school when five of his friends and classmates committed suicide. It took him nearly six months to cry over his loss, the first step towards changing the course of his life.
Kirk Latimer – Previously an acting coach and high school English teacher—known for his crazy and unique style—Kirk recognizes the importance and value in each of his students. Through sharing himself and his past experiences, Kirk seeks to change minds and hearts, while also challenging our outdated educational system.
Kirk’s transformation from a violent boxer to a highly awarded English Education major at Western Michigan University, enabled him to write poetry that reflected on life as an open learning experience, one in which everyone is a student and no one is without fault. His style of writing evolved from his dedication to academics, the explosive power required of a boxer, and the unique juxtaposition of a prankster loving nature. Kirk discovered a way to convert his inner turmoil and aggressiveness into a passionate and impacting learning experience. His fiery energy now fuels the learning of his students and is channeled into the creative power of his writing and dynamic performance.
Hi, I graduated from high school at Kalamazoo Central 3 years ago…I just wanted to let you know that lately, whenever I need something empowering, I listen to your words. Since graduating I’ve moved to New York and I’ve been sharing your words and stories here and you’ve got many fans here now. I hope you’re both doing well, and I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you.-
…I was at Lakeside Academy and attended the classes that were put on by Speak It Forward. I loved and appreciated what you did for me and my fellow peers. It has been almost a year and a half since I left and I’m doing much better now. The things you taught me I still use to this day. Thank you.-
I still wear my shirt from your first performance downtown Kalamazoo. Circa 2006 or so… You guys are the TRUTH!!!-