My heart is so full today.

For those of you who don’t know, I teach a course for the University of Florida called Branding Using Social Media. I help my students define their passions and niches and encourage them to build a brand around them so they can share it with others online. It is a very personal course that requires a lot of soul-searching and self-discovery, which allows me to get to know and appreciate my students on a deeper level.

That being said, my students grow to be completely vulnerable and learn to embrace the opportunity to share their stories, thoughts, and ideas with others — something many of us shy away from in fear of what people would think.

Throughout the semester, one of my students, John, bravely shared his struggles with PTSD after serving in Afghanistan, and used his brand to shine a light on this reality. We all got to learn and read about his beloved service dog named Ranger, who was often the face and voice of John’s brand. (Bonus points for this creative, original approach!)

With Memorial Day and service on my mind this week, I decided to check in with John to see how he was doing. To my delight, he responded with a link to a recent podcast interview he did where he publicly told his story. Proud teacher alert!

In the interview, John says that 22 veterans per day commit suicide.

Since doing the podcast, John has already had others reach out to him — people who were in a very dark place, but are learning to cope thanks to his words and inspiration. And he doesn’t plan to stop now. He’s going to continue to use the power of online media to lift the spirits of our veterans.

John told me that my “compassion and kindness” enabled him to do this interview and take this path, which humbles me and fills my heart.

I always say that when my students think they’re learning from me, I’m really learning from them. They’ve taught me that I’m most fulfilled helping others live out their purpose. That feeling will never get old for me, so in the process of teaching, I’ve realized my own purpose, too.

Please give this a listen. Mr. John Kelly, thank you <3

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