Reminding Kids Everywhere, You Got This!
By Allison Hopkins
Tens of thousands of students in northern California have taken part in Sami Kader’s motivational programs since 2012, and with today’s challenges, they need this more than ever. Just like his program teaches—to never give up—Sami has found a way to continue to reach kids during distance learning through his “On Demand” series. Teachers and parents use Sami’s weekly, 20-minute videos designed to support kids’ physical, mental, and social well-being from Pre-K to sixth grade.
Sami grew up in Roseville and began struggling with low self-esteem as a young child. He was mocked and bullied by his peers for being overweight, which resulted in what he refers to as a “negative voice” inside, leading him down a bad path. His story shows how one person can change someone’s course forever. When Sami was 16, a family friend insisted that he join him on daily trips to the gym. There was a lot of resistance initially, but after one year, Sami lost a significant amount of weight and, most importantly, gained more mental strength and respect for himself than can be measured.
Sami’s two-part program for the past eight school years has involved talking with students during an initial assembly about what he faced throughout elementary, junior high, and high school, teaching them about the tools he used to believe in himself, and engaging them through fun circuit training workouts throughout the year. For anyone who hasn’t seen Sami’s training in action, it’s an auditorium full of so much energy that you can’t help but be a little stunned!
Fast forward to distance learning of 2020 and the new video platform has enabled Sami’s service to reach school districts and parents located anywhere, anytime. His videos focus on a “circuit of powers,” a social-emotional toolbox. He teaches the kids that much like with a superhero, the powers aren’t something that are given to you. Students are shown that these powers already exist and can be accessed at any time once they understand and learn how to use them. A sample video is included at www.samiscircuit.com/homeschool.
Family nights have been a popular part of Sami’s in-person program. Now families of schools that subscribe and others who purchase the On-Demand program can participate in the monthly live virtual events. Each event has a different theme and “field trip” location.
Courtney Harbman’s fourth-graders at Foothill Oaks Elementary School in Sacramento have been involved with Sami’s program since kindergarten. They are very excited to watch his videos during their online class on Fridays. Harbman explained that the most recent video she shared with the class talked about being positive and finding the good in everything they are doing right now, followed by a circuit training activity.
“Sami has become a part of our school climate for the last six years and participates in our annual jog-a-thon,” said Harbman, a mother of two girls who has been teaching for 20 years. “Trying to get my students to do PE can be very difficult, but Sami comes and they will do absolutely anything he asks them to do. He is a magnet for children…he’s like magic.”
Harbman introduced Sami to her school after hearing about the program that her daughter was involved with in Lincoln. Over the years, she has been impressed by his ability to connect with the students who are struggling a little during the circuits and need extra help, explaining that “Sami finds those ones and makes them shine.”
For another parent in Roseville, Lindsey West, Sami’s videos have become part of her seven-year-old son’s weekly physical education time as well as a foundation for his social-emotional learning throughout the week.
“We’ve been working with our son for a while on positive thinking, resilience, perseverance, and self-motivation,” said West. “Lately, he has been drawing pictures and hiding them for us to find as an end of day activity. In these pictures, he has started putting Sami’s words, ‘You got this’ and ‘Never give up.’”
West explained that Sami’s message of overcoming a negative voice from his childhood has really resonated with her son. After learning about the negative voice in one of the first videos, she bought the book of Sami’s story, and they read it from time to time to remind her son that he can overcome negativity and have a happy and healthy life, like Sami.
A teacher in Lincoln, Cammie Sahyoun, is excited to have Sami’s program at a brand new school in the district, where she is teaching second grade (distance learning). Many of the kids remember Sami from their previous schools, and their faces light up when they see him on the screen.
“I played a video last week when they needed to get up and move, and they all loved it,” said Sahyoun, who’s been teaching 18 years. “They are looking forward to family night next week!”
The positive messaging surrounding Sami’s Circuit hits home in a time when it’s truly needed—for teachers, parents, and most importantly, for kids. His weekly videos are working to create new bonds and reinforce existing bonds between Sami and the students; he believes this is key in building resilience.
“Sami’s videos go beyond just exercise for us,” said West. “They are helping our son develop the tools he will need to thrive throughout the challenges of life.”