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TLC reality show star inspires students at JCC

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For “Little People, Big World” star Matt Roloff, no challenge is too big for him to take on.

Mr. Roloff was the keynote speaker at Leadership Day on Thursday at Jefferson Community College, where he spoke to high school and college students about overcoming challenges with positive thoughts.

“You can probably imagine the shock and disappointment of my parents when I was born,” he said about his condition, dwarfism. “In the early days, it was hard to turn our thoughts around and think it was going to be OK.”

He said that recently on Facebook, he found a post that said people should watch their thoughts because thoughts become words, actions and character.

Rather than “watching,” he said, people should strive to be more positive in order to overcome obstacles in life.

Mr. Roloff described creating his first fort as a child. He said he spent years in and out of hospitals because of his condition. When he came home in a body cast, he said, he dragged himself outside and chipped away at the hard dirt in his backyard to create an underground fort.

“I wasn’t feeling bad for myself,” he said. “I was busy as a beaver building my underground fort.”

To fund a budding interest in skiing, he took up a double paper route at age 14. He took apart his mother’s sewing machine, trying to make an “automatic paper folder,” as he called it.

“I was always coming up with new ideas to make money,” he said.

Being so positive was not always natural for Mr. Roloff, but he practiced seeing the good in each situation.

“I would remind you to not watch, but to craft your thoughts,” he said during the presentation. “Say, ‘I’m not going to let that flat tire get me down.’ Resiliency is a muscle that can be exercised.”

Mr. Roloff is not just the star of a hit reality show on TLC. A college news release says “he operates a successful family farm in Oregon with his wife and four children, has authored two books, was a top salesman for Fortune 500 companies, and currently owns a manufacturing company specializing in mobility equipment designed for little people.”

He also is the former president of Little People of America.

Students at the college lined up for a half-hour to meet Mr. Roloff and get an autograph after the speech.

“He’s a really great speaker, and I think he’s very inspirational,” said JCC student Jenna R. Amo, Ogdensburg.

Candace L. Ray, a JCC student from Watertown, agreed.

“He’s a leader,” she said. “If you put your mind to it, you can overcome any obstacle in life.”

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