Recently we welcomed Nick Yarris in to The Studio. It was a thrilling event for all students to be part off. Year 13 student Cameron has wrote about his experience:
On the morning of Thursday 6th April 2017, The Studio School were greeted with the presence of an ex-death row convict; Nick Yarris, who has served 21 years in prison, wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of Pennsylvanian woman, Lynda Mae Craig. Nick was miraculously freed in 2004 and now resides in the UK. He travels around the country speaking to schools, communities and workplaces as a professional speaker, inspiring the young and old to channel a positive mind-set which he cultivated in his many years of isolation. He was the subject of the Netflix award-winning docu-film The Fear of 13, released last year, and has written two novels, including a book of the same name and The Kindness Approach.
Nick was invited to the school by Head of English, Lucy Henderson, who believed a man with such a striking story could instil motivation and knowledge into our two innovative schools. What the hundred or so students were bear witness to was an emancipated discussion between students and Nick about life, education and the human condition.
As the cinema was building up with animated students, Nick stood at the peripheral preparing his speech. Not long passed until he was ready, and Lucy began her introduction; and what a heart-warming introduction it was; full of humility, pride for the students and anticipation for Nick’s discourse to begin. The atmosphere was attentive, and it was at that moment that Nick took over, we were captivated immediately.
A man of mid-fifties, the framework of Nick’s face stood out, as if it has been carved away by his incredible life. He stood confidently and made eye contact with each and every student before he began. Considering everyone had witnessed his ground-breaking narrative in the film, The Fear of 13, Nick felt relieved and instead of retelling his story, he transcended into an all-inclusive discussion with the students about his life lessons and human psychology. Deeply fascinating, hugely humble.
Every single student’s breath was taken away as Nick’s eloquent diction entranced us all. He spoke of how, every day, when he was alone in his cell he would take the English dictionary and read it aloud, learn word after word and slowly but surely become proficient in the English language. Nick recalled how all he wanted was to deliver a clear and coherent speech before his execution.
While incarcerated, Nick learnt about the revelation of DNA in 1988. With his accumulating proficiency with language, Nick began to seek new ways of proving his innocence, communicating with authorities and analysts to find evidence of DNA from the crime scene. The process was lengthy and it was not until 2003 when evidence of two other men was found and he was finally cleared of the crime.
Now free in the real world, Nick explained how he sculpted his own positive mind-set and never once sought redemption for the injustice that was burdened upon him. He disclosed a technique in which one can build up their own mind and intelligence through simply being kind to others; the effect is twofold and every student talked at length about this after the visit; corridor conversations that started ‘I am going to re-think my way of thinking’ became common-ground and Lucy noted that every GCSE speaking assessment that was recently recorded featured a Year 11 student discussing the incredible impact of Nick’s visit.
By the end of the talk, everybody was star struck. Each body in the room stood up and Nick was met with the greatest of applauses, the loudest I have ever heard for any speaker. As the crowd began to make their way out, Nick offered a handshake and a hug to everyone; a personal gesture of compassion; human to human.
Nick’s presence at The Studio School was hugely appreciated and so much was learnt in his talk. Special thanks to Lucy for conceiving the idea and making it all happen, and to all the dedicated and respectful students who attended Nick’s talk. He will have a lasting impact on the school as a whole and we all wish him well with his future.
Watch the trailer for the film The Fear of 13 here: https://youtu.be/6Ja1wrRAAm4