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Pan Am Games gold medallist Cleopatra Borel has advised young people to “shake it off and step up” when faced with adversity.

blink/bmobile endorsee Cleopatra Borel shared the story of a wise old mule who used those words as his mantra to get out of a well into which he had fallen after his owner began throwing dirt on top of him to bury him alive.

The four-time Olympian was speaking to youth participants on the second day of the Secondary Schools Leadership Symposium, held recently at Centre of Excellence, Macoya.

Borel related “the parable by an unknown author” to help participants appreciate that “the adversities that usually come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to bless us.” The symposium, now in its 17th year, has been organised by Valentino Singh to expose young people to outstanding TT athletes and other individuals from whom they can learn important life lessons about success. blink/ bmobile Foundation is a sponsor of this event as the symposium is an investment in TT’s youth.

“Disappointments are a fact of life, and when young people learn from those who have suffered major setbacks and disappointments but then went on to achieve glory, it can really inspire them not to let life’s hurdles sidetrack them or cause them to give up on their dreams,” said acting Chief Marketing Officer of TSTT, Camille Campbell. “We at blink/ bmobile want our young people to know that to achieve requires rising above failure and disappointment.” In relating the story, Borel told how one day the mule fell into a well and its owner, the farmer, “while sympathising with the mule decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth saving.

He enlisted the help of his partners to pour dirt and bury the mule. The mule was hysterical, braying and carrying on. But as the farmer and his neighbours continued throwing dirt into the well, a thought struck the mule.

It suddenly dawned on him he should shake it off and step up every time a load of dirt landed on him. It was not long before the old, battered mule stepped triumphantly over the walls of the well.

What seemed would bury him actually blessed the mule.” Among other insights Borel shared with the participants was the value of education. As a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree holder, Borel told the young audience, “having an education is a great backup plan because no one can take that from you.” In commenting on the effect of Borel’s and the other speakers’ speeches, including that of Paralympic athlete Carlos Greene, Singh said, “Everything we do at this symposium is designed to provide this country with leaders.

I think it would be fair to say that given all that has happened during the first two days we have been well served.” Shaquille Charles, 21-yearsold, a UWI Open Campus student and member of the sports desk youth committee, said, “I believe this symposium is something youth need today.

As a student of Criminology I see a lot of youth being led astray.

We need something like this to hold the youth together and bring them back on track.” He said what touched him most was Greene’s experience as a visually impaired person which shows that “despite your personal circumstances you can overcome what happens to you, that it does not determine your circumstances.”