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Stuntman Scott Hammell jump-starts SHSM program

By Celina Ip

Scott Hammell works to free himself from a straitjacket during his keynote presentation at the RCDSB's SHSM kick-off event on Oct. 11 at the Cobden Agricultural Society.

Scott Hammell works to free himself from a straitjacket during his keynote presentation at the RCDSB's SHSM kick-off event on Oct. 11 at the Cobden Agricultural Society.

COBDEN – Hundreds of students were wowed by Guinness World Record Holder Scott Hammell who delivered a death-defying presentation to teach his audience what it means to challenge themselves and push through adversity.

 

On Oct. 11, Hammell was the keynote speaker for the Renfrew County District School Board’s (RCDSB) kick-off event to this year’s Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program.

Founded more than 10 years ago, the program offers Grade 11 and 12 students the chance to learn specialized skills in nine unique sectors that include environment and forestry, information technology, hospitality, health and wellness, instruction, transportation and manufacturing.

For the past four years, RCDSB has been hosting a SHSM kick-off event in Cobden to welcome all of the new Grade 11 students and give them the opportunity to try out various skills during the one-day affair.

Early that morning, before breaking off into smaller groups for the SHSM training sessions, the 429 Grade 11 students streamed into the hall at the Cobden Agricultural Society to be inspired by Hammell’s presentation “Getting Paid to Breathe”.

“Scott's presentation is called ‘Getting Paid to Breathe’. So what he speaks about is that if you find your true passion and something that really does engage you, then work becomes as natural as breathing,” said Jenny Smith. “We wanted to be able to help instill some of that passion within our students, as they’re trying to determine their next steps for post-secondary and their future. We want them to remember that it's very important to try to draw on your on strengths and your own intrinsic passion when you’re trying to decide future.”

Entertaining professionally since 1998, the four-time Guinness World Record holder has hung upside down from a hot air balloon while locked in a straitjacket and chains (World’s Highest Suspension Straitjacket Escape), dangled by his ankles and juggled for over a minute and a half (Longest Inverted Juggling Duration), successfully completed a card trick while skydiving (World’s Fastest Moving Card Trick) and jumped from an airplane while blindfolded and handcuffed (Highest Blindfolded Skydive).

Immediately after walking onstage, Hammell swiftly had his audience mesmerized as he began juggling hatches while talking about his early start in magic at the age of 12 when he found a book about juggling at his school’s book fair. Thereafter, Hammell was hooked on magic and working with professional mentors who taught him the skills of the trade and he began juggling everything from flaming torches to live explosives.

“The main message I want to get across today is about finding your passion and making it happen. Within that message I tend to speak a lot about understanding why you're doing whatever it is that you're doing. Once you have a clear idea as to why you're doing whatever it is that you’re doing, then when things start to go wrong with the plan that’s when it's easiest to continue and find a new solution,” said Hammell.

Hammell engaged his audience with his thrilling tales garnered from his 20 years of working as a professional entertainer and he even invited a few students onstage to help him perform a couple tricks that had his whole audience baffled and wondering “how did he do it?

“Things are always going to go wrong – you never know. Everything that I have ever done has gone wrong, but more importantly, I learn from those bad experiences,” Hammell told his audience. “It’s about taking big seemingly impossible dreams and breaking them down into smaller steps to make it happen. When you break things down, you get the results you’re going after.”

Hammell followed up those words with an incredible illusion that somehow made a $5 bill with a student’s name written on it disappear, and then reappear inside a lemon.

“By not focusing on the one negative but looking at all the little positive aspects, you can turn those sour experiences into something sweet,” he said as the crowd excitedly cheered upon seeing the $5 bill being pulled out of the lemon.

The magician concluded his presentation with a Houdini-esque performance in which he escaped from a straightjacket within a mere five minutes – including a cringe-worthy but “necessary” dislocation of his shoulder in order to complete the stunt.

“As someone who got his career started as an entertainer, it's nice for me to be able to sprinkle that entertainment throughout,” said Hammell. “I want to reach these students in a different way, by using magic as a vehicle to deliver my message.”

cip@postmedia.com