INDIANAPOLIS — A promise is a person’s declaration that they will do a particular thing. Different than a goal, a broken promise results in a loss of trust.
As author, entertainer and speaker Jason Hewlett took the stage on Monday morning at STN EXPO Indianapolis, laughs escaped from the audience as he gave his keynote presentation, “The Promise.”
Using song, dance, facial expressions and impressions, Hewlett underscored the importance of living up to one’s promise, not only given to those around you but to yourself as well.
“All of us have an incredible voice, an incredible leadership style, something that makes us who we are,” Hewlett said, as he asked all attendees to think about what makes them stand out. “All of us are superstars.”
He challenged the audience to stop hiding what makes them who they are and instead to embrace their differences. He noted that when attending a conference like STN EXPO, a common theme is talking about goals. However, he said to switch the narrative to talk about promises.
“Why set a goal when you can make a promise?” he asked, adding that everyone in the audience should think about the promises they are making to their audience, their team and themselves.
For Derrick Agate, retired transportation supervisor for Hopkins Public Schools in Minnesota and current consultant with the Center for Effective School Operations, the promise he is making to himself after listening to Hewlett’s keynote is to be more of who he is.
“Be true to me, and focus on the family,” he said, adding that he could be a better dad and grandpa. “I’ve been holding back, I haven’t truly been myself because [I am afraid] people will think I’m a showoff or boastful. But it is my personality.”
He added that in private he sings, which is also one of Hewlett’s signature moves, and he might carry on Hewlett’s spirit and energy into his own presentation at STN EXPO Indy on Tuesday. “Because here’s why: I want to create a wonderful world and that’s why I love that song. So, if he inspired me enough on Tuesday, I may have to work that in there.
“I love the message that he was giving, to make the promise to you,” continued Agate. “Setting a goal is one thing, but how about making a promise, I love that part. That resonated with me very well.”
Jason Sparks, the transportation director at Box Elder School District in Utah, said Hewlett’s keynote reflected what is the district’s promise is. “What is it that we value? What do we need to make sure that we fulfill?” he asked. “And in the end, we’re about kids. That’s what our whole promise is. We are going to make sure that we get kids to school safe and make sure that kids get home safe. We are also going to make sure that kids feel safe.”
Sparks attended the conference with five of his employees. He said it’s their first time attending an STN show but it won’t be their last. He served in building administration before taking the transportation director position on July 1, 2021. He noted that as a principal he complained about transportation, so when the position became available, he said he felt that he had to act.
While Sparks said it’s been a learning curve and he is focused on the culture of his department, the conference has so far shown him that the district is on the right track. In the span of a year, his department has reduced accidents by over 70 percent by prioritizing training and recently hired 20 new drivers, though still not enough to be fully staffed he said.
John Cox, driver trainer for the Utah district, added that one thing he took away from the talk was the ability to influence others, whether that be your family or that one student who is getting on the bus.
Meanwhile, Hewlett added that everyone in the audience can tell someone when they are doing something great, as opposed to only leaving negative reviews. He noted that sometimes people see things in us, that we don’t see in ourselves.
He asked attendees who in their lives helped lead them down the road they are currently on. If there was someone who saw something in them and helped guide them toward a new path. He challenged the audience to be that person for someone else.
“Everyone has a perception of where you’re from, what you do, who you work for,” he said, adding that being from Utah comes with its own set of stereotypes. “Change the perception.”
Editor’s Note: Read more about Hewlett and The Promise from his keynote presentation at STN EXPO Reno in 2021.