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Posted on May 1, 2017

EA’s AJ Carr inspires at Madison Chamber ‘IceBreaker’ event

EA’s AJ Carr inspires at Madison Chamber ‘IceBreaker’ event

Exploration Academy student, AJ Carr, and author, actor and entrepreneur, received a standing ovation at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s IceBreaker event Friday in Madison. AJ’s inspiring remarks covered race, mentorship and the power of dreams.

Chamber IceBreaker features home-grown prodigies and inspiration from a 14-year-old

By Barry Adams, Wisconsin State Journal

The Facebook executive and viral media mastermind who spoke to hundreds of Madison business leaders on Friday at the Kohl Center were received warmly, but it was the high school freshman who brought the house down.

AJ Carr, 14, got the standing ovation of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s IceBreaker luncheon, wowing the crowd with his words about racial divides, mentoring and believing in dreams.

“Can you imagine what this city would be like if every kid had a mentor?” AJ said. “Really, think about it. Someone to help them cultivate the talents they already have. Not only would we have less violence, we’d have a lot more successful kids. Please don’t count us out. Say ‘yes’ to us.”

Carr followed the event’s two other featured speakers: 1999 West High School graduate Pete Koechley, co-founder of the website Upworthy; and Kaaren Hanson, the design director at Facebook who graduated from Memorial High School in 1988.

AJ, who attends Exploration Academy at Verona High School, is the founder of Building Bosses, a nonprofit designed to teach youth about leadership and entrepreneurship. AJ also is an actor who has landed roles on PBS’ “Mercy Street” and NBC’s “Chicago PD.”

He’s come a long way since, as he described for the audience, a Madison school principal told him five years ago that he was a menace to society. The city has a long way to go to narrow racial divides but the divide is not insurmountable, he said.

Fog machines and blue and purple lighting helped create a rock concert-like scene as AJ talked about the murder of three family members, the toughness of his mother, homelessness and the advice of his great-grandfather.

“He taught me so much about life. He taught me I had to believe in my dreams and to say ‘yes’ to myself,” AJ told the attentive crowd, which included students from Madison’s four public high schools sitting in the stands. “But the most important lesson he taught me was to give as much as you can before you leave this Earth. Do all you can to make a positive impact in this world.”

AJ Carr, 14, a high school student from Verona, an author, actor and founder of a non-profit, drew a big applause from the nearly 1,000 people who attended Friday’s IceBreaker luncheon at the Kohl Center.

The theme for the IceBreaker was “prodigium,” the Latin root of prodigy. The midday series of speakers focused on innovation, creativity, imagination and forward-thinking. Read more …