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High School & Middle School


WELCOME: After spending 20+ years in the college readiness space, Harlan has seen that the social and emotional challenges students face as young adults can be traced back to the elementary, middle, and high school years.  In 2019, 55.9% of current college students reported feeling hopeless over the past year (ACHA-NCHA data).  This number is up from 45.2% in 2011.

To counter this trend, Harlan has developed a framework and SEL tools to support teachers (Pre-K to 12+), professional staff, and parents.  He would love to work with your elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools!

DESCRIPTION: What do you REALLY want?  Do you believe it can happen?  What will it take to make it happen?  New York Times bestselling author Harlan Cohen helps audiences of all ages get from where they are to wherever they want to go. Harlan breaks down barriers and gives students the tools to change their lives and provides educators with a framework to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety.

Here's how it works: In order to dream big, students need to step outside their comfort zone and define what they want. In order to believe they are capable of reaching their dreams, they need heroes to guide them, places to find answers, and time to get the results they desire. In order to make whatever they want happen, they need life skills and practice. Only then can they increase grit, build resilience, and be relentless while working toward goals.  That's where Harlan steps in.

Harlan introduces students to a five-step approach that gives participants a framework to set goals and put together a plan of action. Attendees will engage in a series of exercises that transform fear into freedom and turn obstacles into a springboard to future success. Participants will leave with tools to help them identify what they want and how to get there.  Harlan uses his trademark humor, audience interaction, and facts to challenge attendees to step outside their comfort zone and grow as individuals and leaders. This interactive and humorous event incorporates grit, resilience, and growth mindset.

ABOUT HARLAN:  Harlan is a dynamic and humorous presenter who has visited over 500 high school and college campuses. His events are interactive and engaging. Audience members send live text messages, engage in impromptu conversations, and participate in questions and answers during the show.  Harlan even plays the guitar.  Each event is customized to fit the needs of your community.

Questions? Have a date in mind? Event Request Form

MIDDLE SCHOOL AUDIENCES: This program introduces students to overcoming rejection and applying strategies that will enable them to pave a path to achieve their dreams. The framework and strategies empower students to embrace change, navigate adversity, and find support as they transition to life in high school.

HIGH SCHOOL AUDIENCES: This program is the perfect event to help high school students practice navigating change before starting life in college. The framework and strategies taught will guide students through high school and prepare them for college search, selection, and transition.

PROFESSIONAL AUDIENCES ( > CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FLYER WITH DESCRIPTION): This program empowers professionals and give them tools to provide self-care and guide students. The program provides a framework that can be applied inside the classroom to guide students through all the changes they will face as they go from one stage of life to another.

TOPICS: Leadership, grit, resilience, risk-taking, first-generation students, success, adversity, emotional endurance, conflict resolution, communication, problem-solving, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, and overcoming rejection.

AUDIENCE: First generation students, Professional groups, high school students, parents, and anyone working with students.

LENGTH: Keynotes 45-90 minute / Workshops 60-minutes to full day




What People Are Saying

Harlan was an absolute pleasure to have at Northeastern. He could not have been more gracious, easy to work with or nicer with our students. We had a fantastic turnout for a Friday rainy night in Boston –and what’s even better is that students stayed the entire show and really enjoyed it. We had an after-party that Harlan promoted during the show and had a very successful event. Students came to meet each other, meet Harlan and put themselves out there in a way that was clearly a result of Harlan’s encouragement and messaging. Possibly the most impressive to me was the time that Harlan took with students ---he was patient, kind and stayed at our event until each and every student who wanted an opportunity to speak with him had ample time to talk.

Amaura Kemmerer, LICSW
Director, Office of Prevention & Education at Northeastern O.P.E.N.


You had such a significant impact on my son and your words kept his dream alive.  I am so thrilled we attended your program and I sincerely thank you for your incredible words and inspiring my son to follow his dreams and not give up.

- Lori R, Mom of Deerfield High School Student


Last night was OUTSTANDING! Thank you so much for not only presenting, but actually spending time with our students and parents. Let’s set up a lunch meeting soon to plan for next year

- Lulú Hertenstein, Community Outreach Specialist, West Aurora School District 129