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Jeremy Poincenot

Walking across the San Diego State University campus, you would have excused 19-year-old Jeremy Poincenot if he had a perpetual grin on his face. The business major was kicking butt in his classes, was playing golf every chance he got, had a beautiful girlfriend, and was a leader in his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

He was living the dream in beautiful, sunny, Southern California and life was good. One day on his way to class, Jeremy found himself squinting to read a sign on campus. He had that moment of realization – although he had always had 20/20 vision, maybe it was time to go get his eyes checked. He called his mom and asked her to help him make an appointment. “Figured I probably needed glasses or something,” Jeremy said. Instead, over the course of the next several months, Jeremy learned that he had a rare genetic condition called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), an incurable disease that strikes only about 100 people a year.

He completely lost his central vision. Imagine holding your hands up a half-inch from your eyeballs.

In a matter of weeks, Jeremy lost the ability to read, drive and distinguish faces. The depression set in. For months he sat around his parents’ house, wondering why him? How could something like this just happen out of the blue? Why didn’t anyone know how to fight this disease? He couldn’t see a path forward, and his depression started taking a toll on his entire family. Then he learned about blind golf. He had always loved playing golf, so with the help of his father, Lionel, he entered the International Blind Golf Association’s world championship tournament in Britain. Although he was the youngest competitor by at least 15 years, with his dad as his guide and his caddy, Jeremy became the World Blind Golf Champion.

Today, Jeremy Poincenot (pronounced “POYN-sen-no”) is touring the country talking to college students about how to overcome adversity and find new ways to achieve. He is busy raising money to find a cure for LHON. He appeared in an episode of MTV’s “True Life” about young people losing their sight. Most of all, he’s infecting people with his positive attitude and sense of humor. “Life hands you some crazy and unexpected circumstances,” Jeremy said. “When that happens, you really find out what you’re made of. I guess I want to help college students and young people understand that the choices you make and the attitude you choose make all the difference between regret and a life with meaning.”

Watch Jeremy’s interview with ABC 20/20

Looking Into the Leadership Abyss

“Man looks into the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character, and that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” – Hal Holbrook We all face obstacles as student leaders, and how we stand up in the face of those obstacles says everything about the people we are. How we face challenges as student leaders might also determine how we learn to handle the tough times throughout our lives – preparing us for success in our careers, relationships, and overall happiness. Through it all, we need people around us who pick us up, tell us what we need to hear, and give us courage. There’s no reason we have to “look into the abyss” alone. Jeremy Poincenot has learned some big lessons about hardship. After suddenly losing his eyesight in college due to a hereditary disease, Jeremy found himself staring into emptiness – both literally and figuratively. It took the love and investment of a friend to get him back on a productive path. With this critical help, Jeremy was able to find his character and figure out a way to move forward. In his inspiring keynote – perfect for any leadership conference, special event or convocation – Jeremy talks about how character saved him, turning the darkest chapter of his life into an opportunity and purpose. Every challenge is a chance to find something better and that fear can lead to growth. Jeremy helps students believe in themselves, lean on their most trusted friends and loved ones, and become stronger individuals.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this program, students will learn:

  • the importance of servant leadership in their community,
  • why leaders need to focus more on solutions rather than dwelling on problems,
  • ways to respond to challenges more effectively,
  • how to stop leading blindly, and to start leading by example, and
  • how to approach obstacles as opportunities for growth rather than with a negative viewpoint.

When Fraternity Really Matters

Jeremy Poincenot inspires students with a story of how a brother saved his life. After suddenly losing his eyesight in college due to a hereditary disease, Jeremy was rescued from despair by his fraternity brothers who rallied around him, helped him cope with his new reality, and gave him hope. “Some blind people get a seeing-eye dog,” Jeremy jokes. “I got a fraternity house full of seeing-eye brothers.” In a world where we are surrounded by negative stories about fraternity and sorority life, Jeremy offers a true story that speaks to the awesome potential of brotherhood. He believes this commitment, caring, and support was only possible through the fraternity relationship. While we often focus on caring for ourselves, it’s important to understand that the time and dedication we give to others is an opportunity for us to make a difference. Perfect for any fraternity and sorority leadership event, this program is ideal for new member convocations, Greek Week, or any event where a positive, uplifting message is needed.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this program, students will learn:

  • the power that true fraternal brotherhood and sisterhood can have on individuals and organizations,
  • how each person has the ability to have a positive impact on someone’s life, and
  • that they can become resilient, even in the face of tremendous adversity.

The Friend Who Changes Your Life

This program is based on the same framework as Jeremy’s keynote for fraternity/sorority audiences above, but it is adjusted for general orientation audiences, removing the fraternity context and talking about the importance of building strong relationships during your time in college. Every student wants to make good friends when they go to college. You study with people, live around them, eat beside them, and party with them. But do we make the deeper investments that could really make a difference when something life-changing happens? Jeremy Poincenot inspires students with a story of how one college friend changed his life. After suddenly losing his eyesight in college due to a hereditary disease, Jeremy was rescued from despair by friends who picked him up, gave him hope, and set him on a path to get his life back. “When we go to college, we are so focused on ourselves,” Jeremy says. “We don’t often realize how the friendships we make might make all the difference in our lives later on.” In a message that speaks directly to the retention goals of most colleges, Jeremy impresses new student audiences with the urgency of investing in authentic, meaningful relationships in the critical first year of college. His uplifting keynote is based on true stories, guaranteed to make a connection with students – and with parents leaving their new students in an unfamiliar place.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of attending this program, students will learn:

  • about their ability to change others’ lives,
  • how to think less about helping themselves and more about helping others, and
  • that in college they are not alone, and are in fact surrounded by support networks.

 

“The audience loved Jeremy. Everything about it was perfect, I have gotten so many positive comments. He influenced many people with the impact of the talk.”

– Allison LePontois, Delta Gamma, Roanoke College

“Jeremy has a talent for motivating people, and a way of making every person he speaks with feel that they are the most important person in the room.”

– Michael B., Northwest Missouri State University, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity

“Jeremy’s story reminds me that it’s the possibility of having dreams come true that makes life interesting.”

– Kevin N., San Diego State University, Alpha Eta Sigma Honor Society

“I appreciated how honest you were about your feelings, both the positive and the negative aspects…too often speakers sugar-coat their emotions and I like how raw you portrayed your feelings.”

– Jessica R., San Diego State University, Alpha Eta Sigma Honor Society

“Great job, Jeremy was young enough to connect with everyone. Adding in small things to connect with the audience made it great. If more speakers where like this, more people would attend the events.”

– Frank Ruffolo, Ohio Wesleyan University

Jeremy’s Bio

Jeremy is a 2013 graduate of San Diego State University. He’s a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and an avid golfer. He resides in San Diego, California.

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