Former New York Jets wide receiver Brian Musso offered words of encouragement during his keynote address to Catalyst Circle Rock students at the charter school’s fifth annual leadership ceremony on Sept. 12.

The leadership ceremony at the school, located at 5608 W. Washington, is a celebration where each of the eighth grader outfits a seventh grader with a green tie representing their new responsibilities as a school leader. The school’s 58 eighth graders and 55 seventh graders participated in the ceremony.

The gesture is the upperclassmen’s promise to guide and support younger peers throughout the school year, as well as to carry the characteristics of a leader to high school and beyond.

“Eighth graders, you must rise to the call of leadership, and the younger generation needs to choose to find a positive example to follow,” Musso said. “I see this ceremony as part celebration but also a challenge.”

Two students from each grade also spoke at last week’s event.

Seventh grader Daja Parker said leaders should care about their education. Following positive mentors beginning in junior high, she added, will help her achieve her life dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. Parker hopes to attend either Howard University in Washington, D.C., or New York’s Columbia University.

But being a leader isn’t always easy, said eighth grader Christopher Smith, because it takes self-discipline,

“When someone says, ‘Hey, you want to go play some basketball,’ you have to have the will power to say ‘no’ because you have homework to do,” Smith said.

Musso joked with the students when he took the podium. He thanked them for showing up in their green and white uniforms-his Jets colors-causing the junior high students, as well as family members in the audience, to erupt in laughter and cheers. Musso said he misses playing sports and being around a group of men on a mission.

“When I was sitting here listening to you cheer for the speakers that came up, it just occurred to me that this is a place that is on a mission,” he said. “You students are on a mission to achieve something.”

After Musso’s athletic career ended, he started the investment capital company Promus Capital, Sharon Morgan, director of graduate support and community outreach for Catalyst Schools, told students.

“If you go into sports, don’t forget you have to be educated, so when you come out you can form your own company and become the millionaire that you want to be,” she said.

Musso told the students to always have a future destination.

 “You have to wake up every day dead-set on inching a little closer to your dreams. If you’re not moving toward your dreams, you are just a daydreamer; just someone standing there,” he said. “Whatever you dream about … do it to the best of your ability.”