CLINTON – Every Tuesday morning, Tim and Randi Pogorelski, owners of Boxcars Pub and Grub on Allen Street in Clinton, host a free breakfast for middle and high school students.

The breakfasts also feature different motivational speakers each week who address life issues faced by youth today. Speakers have included sports figures, local veterans, business people, public officials, first responders, and more.

Pogorelski has always had a passion for wanting to help teens. His own father passed away when he was 15 years old. He credits Richard Dabson, the band director at Milton High School, where Pogorelski graduated, along with coaches Jerry Schliem and Mike Kolff, for “keeping me on the right track and keeping me from being a loser.”

He added, “They instilled in me a great sense of values and morals and made sure I continued to do well in school, on the field, and in life in general. I want to share the lessons I’ve learned with others. The morals people have created in me, I want to pass on to the kids.”

The idea of the breakfasts came to Pogorelski while coaching football at Beloit Memorial High School. Pogorelski heard a man speak at a football clinic in Madison, and he spoke about doing something called “leadership lunches” with his athletes.

Pogorelski wanted to do something like this for the students in Clinton, but did not think a lunch would work due to students’ schedules, so he decided to try a leadership breakfast instead.

Clinton’s head varsity football coach, Jeff Spiwak, had mentioned a breakfast idea a few years ago, and Pogorelski thought this might be the time to try the idea. His wife, Randi, loved the idea and agreed to make the food for the breakfasts.

She cooks biscuits and gravy, and sometimes quiche, along with donuts and chocolate milk. They reached out to all Clinton Middle School and High School coaches, inviting them and their players to attend.

Pogorelski secured funding from the Clinton Kiwanis, Jakes Electric, DeLong Company, and Scot Forge to help offset the cost of paying for the guest speakers.

Speakers at these breakfasts deliver motivating messages that can be applied to all areas of a teen’s life. Kevin Bullis, head football coach at UW-Whitewater, teaches his players the three percent rule.

This rule demands that players improve by three percent each day; one percent socially, one percent academically, one percent athletically. He wants students to understand that life is about steady improvement and that they cannot expect to be superstars overnight.

Tom Scallici, a retired teacher from the Janesville School District, had a full scholarship to Northern Iowa when he was younger. He spoke to students about the hard work it took for him to be good enough to be offered the scholarship, and the hard work, both athletically and academically, it took for him to maintain it.

Pogorelski has a personal connection with Scallici, having had his father, Ted Scallici, as a middle school teacher. Pogorelski remembers the impact Ted had on him as a child, and now Ted’s son is carrying on the tradition of motivating students.

Blaise Winter played in the NFL for 11 years. He was with the Green Bay Packers for three years. He is now a national motivational speaker. He travels the country to spread his message.

He was born with a cleft pallet and had multiple surgeries to correct it. He also had tumors in his ears, which left him deaf in one ear. When he was in seventh grade his counselor wanted to put him in a special education class because of his speech problems.

His mother got him involved in football, against his will. He had been bullied, beat up, put in trash cans when he was younger, so he was scared to join the football team.

His mom insisted because she believed it would help him and others to see him as a “normal” kid. She knew he did not need special education services. He needed self-confidence, and she was right.

He went on to become the captain of his high school football team. No Division One schools offered him a scholarship, so he walked onto his college football team without a scholarship.

He tried out for the team and ended up earning the recognition of Most Valuable Player on the team his senior year. He went on to be the 35th player chosen in the 1984 NFL draft.

He played for the Indianapolis Colts. Winter uses the story of his personal struggles and successes to help teach kids that they, too, can overcome whatever obstacles are placed in their path.

Other speakers have included Kevin Murray, a retired Lieutenant from the Janesville Fire Department who is currently president of the Janesville School Board, and Seth Duerr, head coach from Beloit College.

Pogorelski has his own message for the students. He coached football for three years at Beloit Memorial High School, and two years in Clinton. He has met and helped students facing great obstacles. He wants the students in Clinton to realize how fortunate they are to live here.

He explains, “Very few of our students in Clinton know what’s it’s like to not have any food at home, to not know if they’re going to see their dad tomorrow or the next day, or to have one or more parents in prison. Some do, but it’s not the same percentage as in other places.”

Pogorelski cannot recall witnessing any racial discrimination or biased from the kids, even though they come from two completely different cultures. While coaching in Beloit, the team only won two games in three years. Clinton, on the other hand, has been built into a winning team, making the play-offs each of the past two years.

The message Pogorelski would like for students to take with them is to take advantage of the opportunity offered here.

He stated, “I’ve been fortunate enough for people to open doors for me and I walked through and made something of that opportunity. I want others to take that chance. Take that opportunity and make the most of it.

“Win the game, whether it’s a sports game or the game of life. Treasure the experience even if you don’t win sometimes. At least you had the opportunity to be a part of something. If you don’t give 110%, then you only cheated yourself of that opportunity.”

Breakfasts are every Tuesday morning at 6:40 a.m., with the speaker beginning at 7 a.m. Hosting these breakfasts is something that is near and dear to Pogorelski’s heart.

Some weeks the number of attendees is low, but other weeks there have been as many as 42 students in attendance. He encourages all students in middle and high school to attend, stressing, “It’s not just for athletes. It’s for anyone who wants some free food and wants to be motivated to succeed in whatever they are interested in.”

Pogorelski would like to also teach other school districts how to host these types of motivational meetings. Anyone interested in learning more about how to host and make a positive impact on the youth in the community can contact Tim Pogorelski at Boxcars at (608) 676-1149.

Boxcars breakfast I

Courtesy photos

Kevin Bullis, head coach at UW-Whitewater, spoke to students about the “three percent rule.”