CORNWALL, Ontario - Justin Boudreau took just five minutes to get hundreds of screaming teenagers eating out of the palm of his hand.
The guest speaker, originally from New Brunswick but who now makes his home in California, was retained by the Cornwall Community Police Service to anchor its 2013 youth symposium which has brought together nearly 3,000 students from the city and area to hear his message over several days.
The message is a simple one, that speaks to students on their level, without the filter of a teacher or parent.
"I don't pretend to know what it's like to be a teenager today, because I'm not one," he told students Thursday morning at General Vanier School. "And I'm not going to talk about living in Cornwall, because I don't."
But Boudreau did talk about his personal experience as a young boy and teenager who had no friends, and virtually no outlet for social interactions.
While encouraging students to leap from their seats and make spectacles of themselves, in full view of their peers, Boudreau brought home the message that it is okay to be different.
"Before you did that, you looked at your friend and said: 'Are you going to do that?'" he said. "The point I'm trying to make, is it is a survival skill.
"A lot of time you look around and see what others are doing.
"But you still have to remain true to yourself."
Boudreau's message included liberal doses of humour and entertainment, but Cornwall police Const. Melanie Labele added the realism of Boudreau's stories struck a nerve with the students.
"I've seen his presentation (several) times...and every single time the kids are glued to him," she said. "He's very interactive.
"It's for the benefit of the kids...to accept who you are and just be yourself."