Inspirational speaker focuses on inner beauty

Mike Fowlin makes use of various personalities to reach h.s. students


Staff Writer

DAVE BENJAMIN  Mike Fowlin portrays a group of people with very different characteristics when he presents his one-man show “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me” at high schools.DAVE BENJAMIN Mike Fowlin portrays a group of people with very different characteristics when he presents his one-man show “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me” at high schools. HOWELL — He knows how to get his message across to students.

That is why guest speaker Mike Fowlin, aka Mykee, came to Howell High School recently to present his program “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me.”

Fowlin speaks to students about tolerance, acceptance, not being alone, and the beauty that can be found in each person. He holds a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Rutgers University.

“I love being in front of people,” Fowlin said. “I love being on the stage. I love communicating with people and no matter where I go I try to understand the situation and find humor everywhere.”

Even in a dangerous, sad or depressing situation, Fowlin said he tries to find a grain of humor, because humor helps people to get through the most difficult situations.

“Today we are going to understand from a different perspective,” Fowlin told the Howell students. “Whatever you feel, it’s OK. You are not alone.”

He told the students how people hide behind masks because it is too painful for them to deal with their problems and too painful to let people know who they really are.

“Students wear masks and others think they have the perfect life,” Fowlin said. “You come to school and you smile at everyone. Or you’re the student that has an attitude all the time, or you go home to find parents [who] ignore you or are abusive.”

In a series of flashbacks, Fowlin portrays a series of people, including a 6-year-old named Jermaine who has Attention Deficit Disorder. Jermaine talks too much, always gets into trouble and has to go to the principal.

In another scenario, Octavious Malone, a high school senior who is bound for Penn State University to play football, is walking down the school hallway with his friend Rick. Rick needs help with the way he speaks to girls. Octavious is too embarrassed to talk to Rick about his problem. In his mind Octavious knows full well that he is more attracted to Rick than any of the girls Rick is eyeing. Octavious hides his preference under a mask of being straight.

Fowlin also portrays Frank Sanders, a 21-year-old who is stopped by police and questioned in a scenario which deals with profiling. Even though he did nothing wrong, Sanders gets a ticket for obstructing justice. The feelings that Sanders has as a result of his treatment can’t help being felt by those in the audience.

In each situation, Fowlin points to tolerance and acceptance of others as the key to resolving bias, hatred and anger. He continues with an assortment of situations, including the student who always appears to be cool, but every night comes home to face a situation such as being hit by one parent or another; or parents involved in a divorce; or parents who are cheating on or bad mouthing the other.

His presentation touches on children who are overweight and the abuse they take from their peers, and those who are anorexic or bulimic and the effect others have on them. He covers the victimization of girls, youths who are biracial, and he deals with black and white issues in an evenhanded manner as he tells the story of his friend named Rodney.

“Is that why you don’t like him [Rodney] or is it because he is black?” Fowlin asks. “If a white kid doesn’t like a person who happens to be black, is it always about race?”

Fowlin then turns the scenario around.

“How come it doesn’t work the other way around?” he asked. “Let’s put the cards on the table. You know Rodney used to go around high school saying, ‘I hate all white people.’ He wouldn’t even wear white T-shirts. But nobody ever called him prejudiced.”

Leaving the students with a message, Fowlin said, “Just because your people have been oppressed, it doesn’t give you the right to become the oppressor.”

Fowlin said his presentation is about everyone who has looked at another person who is a little bit different, like teens who wear trench coats to school or dye their hair purple.

“It’s about the kids that don’t fit into the Abercrombie and Fitch crew,” he said.

With a final message, he said each and every student has to see himself or herself as a beautiful person.

“I don’t care what you look like,” said Fowlin. “I don’t care what town you come from. I don’t care how much money your parents have. I don’t even care what you smell like. I think you’re beautiful.”