Looking for the next chapter in lifeByron Wolt calls himself a teenologist, a term that at its most basic level just means he does what he can to reach out to young people. The Farmington resident adopted the term a few years ago because he liked it better than some of the other options he had for describing his job.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Byron Wolt calls himself a teenologist, a term that at its most basic level just means he does what he can to reach out to young people.
The Farmington resident adopted the term a few years ago because he liked it better than some of the other options he had for describing his job. Presenter sounded too pretentious and motivational speaker a little too much like the old Chris Farley character on Saturday Night Live. The one who lived in a van down by the river.
What Wolt does is talk to students. He goes into schools to give presentations on topics like our increasingly global culture, or promoting peace or politics. He tries to help students connect the things they’re learning in school to what they will experience in the real world.
“The idea wasn’t to come in and tell them what I thought. It was to make sure they thought,” Wolt said.
Wolt has worked with young people nearly all of his life. He was a playground supervisor and a coach in his youth. He studied child psychology at the University of Minnesota and worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs in north Minneapolis. He has taught English in Japan and worked in youth outreach for the YMCA.
He got started on his current path as an employee of what was then Brown Institute. They wanted someone to talk about their school in area high schools, but aside from a brief message about Brown it was up to Wolt to come up with the topics of his talks.
“They never really paid me to create the presentations. They paid me to reach the students,” Wolt said.
So, he did. In whatever way he could.
Wearing tennis shoes and goofy ties – because the company said he had to wear a tie, but they never said what kind – Wolt became known as the speaker in sneakers.
Wolt said he particularly enjoys working with high school students because they’re old enough to know a little bit about the world, but inexperienced enough that there’s still plenty to teach them. He likes knowing he is making an impact on students. He’s been recognized at the mall or while pumping gas even months after the fact by students who were in the audience for his presentations.
Over the course of 12 years he has given more than 3,000 presentations in a five-state area, including many at Farmington schools. His position with Brown was eliminated in November, but Wolt has found something he enjoys. Now he’s trying to do it on his own.
For the time being, that means doing whatever he can to get his name out. He’s emailed all of the teachers whose classrooms he’s visited. He’s made free presentations for some of the Farmington teachers he’s worked with over the years, and he talked to the FHS boys varsity soccer team about setting goals.
Wolt’s son is on the soccer team, and Wolt has worked as a PA announcer at games.
Wolt is trying to figure out if there’s a way to get businesses to sponsor his presentations, much the same way Brown once did. He could be the speaker in sneakers, brought to you by Culvers.
He’s got other projects in the works, too. He recently finished the first draft of a book that collects the information from many of his presentation topics, and he’s got ideas for a second one rattling around in his brain.
For the time being, he’s following some of the same advice he’s given to students so many times over the years.
“We’re going to see what the next chapter is,” he said. “I’ve been telling kids all these years, you never know what the next opportunity will be. You just have to be ready.”