Dr. Ben Carson signing the IST wall

On Saturday, November 19, 2011, the Overland West Gym was packed with students, staff, parents, and community members eager to meet Dr. Ben Carson.

Dr. Carson, a surgeon from modest beginnings, was the featured speaker at the fifth annual Success for Every Student Conference organized by Prairie Middle School.

The conference series began as a B.L.A.A.C.K. conference, Building Leadership in the African-American Community for Kids. The scope of the conference now extends to inspire all students to realize their leadership potential.

With the opening of the Institute of Science & Technology (IST), Dr. Carson is an inspiration for everyone, including students interested in health sciences. His work proves that success for all students is possible though perseverance and the investment in education. Carson is shown (left) autographing the timeline of scientists at the IST building.

Born and raised in inner-city Detroit, Dr. Carson credits his mother's influence with much of his success. She insisted that Ben and his brother read two books a week and submit book reports to her to encourage their learning. Carson didn't realize until later that she was unable to read their papers, having had only a third-grade education herself.

Carson told of his challenges with anger management. Stabbing and nearly killing a classmate caused him to re-examine his life. He vowed never to let his temper get in the way of his dream of becoming a surgeon.

Once known to his classmates as "dummy," Carson turned his life around through vigorous studying and a thirst for knowledge. He graduated high school with honors and gained admission to Yale University. Carson regaled the story of his choice of which college to attend. His favorite TV program had been an academic college bowl, and he vowed to attend the school with the winning team that year. Harvard lost to Yale, and Carson had his school picked out. Ironically, the show went off the air by the time he enrolled.

At Yale, Carson pursued a degree in Psychology. He then went on to medical school at the University of Michigan, where his interest shifted from psychiatry to neurosurgery. It was then that Dr. Carson realized his ability to visualize the brain in three dimensions. His excellent hand-eye coordination and extensive neurological background were qualities fitting for a career as a neurosurgeon. After medical school, Dr. Carson became a neurosurgery resident at the Johns Hopkins Hositpal in Baltimore and later the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Among his many honors and accomplishments is the first successful surgery to separate conjoined twins.

Carson's inspirational message and words of wisdom reached everyone in the audience. From expert advice to encouragement, Dr. Carson showed that achieving dreams is possible for anyone with enough focus and determination. It was an honor and a privilege to have him visit the Overland-Zone.