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February 12, 2014
Marshall Independent

Photo by Deb Gau

It only takes a minute to make a difference in a person's life, Jonathan Friesen said. Sometimes a simple "hello" is all it takes to make someone feel noticed and accepted. "When you make someone visible, you change their life," Friesen said to an audience of Marshall High School students on Tuesday. "Some people have been waiting a long time for that." Friesen, a Minnesota author who has written books including "Jerk, California," "Rush" and "Aquifer," spoke to groups of MHS students throughout the day. Using stories from his own life, Friesen talked about the importance of acknowledging other people and making them visible, especially if they're hurting or being ignored. As a boy growing up with tics from Tourette's syndrome, Friesen said, he didn't feel seen except as a freak, or "the twitchy kid." His experiences in middle school led him to lock himself in his room for two years. However, he said getting an unexpected visit from a girl from school changed his life and helped give him the courage to go back to school. In addition to his main talk, Friesen also shared his experience as a author, talking to students about writing characters and plot.

Friesen said public speaking and writing are both important parts of his work. "There are a lot of hurting kids. If we can reach one or two, it'll be worth it," Friesen said.

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