Hoan Do told River View High School's 300-plus students that it's OK to feel stressed out.
Some days at school can feel like life is just piling on, said the motivational speaker and participant in NBC's American Ninja Warrior competition.
He warned them: Hiding your stress doesn't help you and you need to relieve the pressure. But you must take action, he said.
It's like if you're in a car and suddenly a song you don't like comes on the radio, "What do you do?" he asked the Finley students at the end of the first day of classes.
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"Change the station," they answered.
"We all have radio stations up here," Do said, pointing to his head. "Make that decision to change that whack song."
The Finley school and the Washington State University GEAR UP program worked to bring Do, who lives in Federal Way and has worked for years as a motivational speaker.
GEAR UP coordinator Amandalyn Rubio said she specifically sought out Do after hearing how he reached out to students in the Dayton and Kiona-Benton City school districts.
River View has had opening day assemblies for a few years.
The event is seen as an opportunity to get students excited for the school year and encourage them to apply themselves in all aspects of their lives. Administrators said they hoped it would motivate students to become active in student clubs and leadership roles.
"The biggest thing I want students to take away is they can achieve, and they will achieve," said Principal Bryan Long.
Do talked about how, despite being a good student and athlete, he was frequently depressed when he was a teen because he always compared himself with others and was afraid of what people would say.
Much of his message to students was they need to push themselves outside their comfort zones and not worry about the naysayers they see in school or hear in their heads.
The 29-year-old demonstrated this by reprising an acting class assignment that had him dancing to Toni Basil's Mickey in a cheerleader skirt and wig, with River View students cheering the whole time.
"Afterward, I realized that was the most embarrassing thing I've ever done," Do said of his original acting class performance. "But I'm glad I did it."
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver