Woodstock students let in on secrets to life success

WOODSTOCK – Bob Chmiel’s speech wasn’t about football, but he couldn’t help but sneak in a few references to the sport that’s been his passion.

“You’re being observed every day,” he told a Woodstock High School auditorium filled with juniors Wednesday afternoon. “Never take a play off.”

Chmiel, director of football operations for the National Collegiate Scouting Association, delivered the first speech of a new monthly series aimed at broadening high school students’ definition of success. Weaving in examples from his days as a recruiter for the University of Notre Dame, Chmiel spoke for about 30 minutes on keys to a successful life – regardless of the road a student chooses.

The school’s new Expect Excellence program will bring in a handful of speakers from a range of professions to get students to think outside a linear path to success.

English teacher Art Vallicelli, who was on the committee that developed the program, said its intention is to get students to “understand that it doesn’t have to be that four-year degree, graduate school and you’ll finally make six figures.”

Life doesn’t unfold so neatly for most, Vallicelli said.

Some students will head to college and find white-collar jobs, he said. Others “are maybe going to get an associate or some sort of certification, and be in the workforce at age 20. You don’t need to have that perfect pathway to success.”

Representatives of Black Diamond Plumbing and Mechanical and the Northwest Herald will address students in the coming months.

Going forward, some speakers will bounce around classrooms to speak with students on a more intimate level, and teachers will try to incorporate some of what they say into classroom activity, Vallicelli said.

Chmiel, who has shared a sideline with former coaches Lou Holtz, Bo Schembechler and Lee Corso, offered three main suggestions Wednesday. Excel every day at what you do, be the best student you can be, and have the character to be a good person even when you think nobody’s watching.

“This is the most important one: You had better possess great character,” he said. “Character is who you are when you’re alone in the dark.”

Circling back to football, Chmiel said the most important lesson the sport offers comes from the huddle, where an individual’s background doesn’t matter.

“All I care about is do I trust you, do you love what you do, can you help me execute this play for the betterment of the group,” he said.