#NASBE16: General Session Keynote

We are being treated to a keynote by Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers.

Before he speaks, we are shown the movie trailer. Then, Scott stands at the podium and sings: "if I can help somebody as I pass along..then, my living shall not be in vain". Says he opens with that song, because it describes his life's purpose and because he believes it describes many of us. That, in the final analysis, our lives will be measured by how much or how little we have given ourselves, our lives in service, to love, to position others to flourish.

If you've seen the movie, it compresses 5 years into 2 hours; 150 students, into 5 main characters. "Marcus" is the character that best represents him.

He hopes his story will give us some perspective. New eyes through which to see some of the kids in our own areas. Perhaps a renewed heart. Hopes to provide at least one reason to stay with this work. He has a unique frame of reference - very different from most of us. Asks that we open our hearts and minds. 

Shares details of his life. Before he was 16 lived in 26 places. floors. Beaches. No blankets. Homeless. Hungry. The kid we avoided eye contact with. Would sift through garbage scrounging for food to survive. Brought all of those issues with him to school. Anger and rage simmering inside him. Poverty is not just the lack of money. Poverty is the lack of access - to resources and people that can help you.

Cut school 4th gr - 9th gr. Found family in the streets - gang members - all were lost. Fell so far behind in school. His English language was so far behind that he was labeled as a student whose first language is not English and was placed in an ESL class of Spanish speaking students - - and he didn't know a word of Spanish.

Dropped out of school in 2nd semester of 9th grade. Lived on the streets. Compelled to go back to school. Took a community of support to succeed, including lunch ladies ("Lunch ladies don't show up on school transcripts, but they are just as important").

Erin Gruwell became a student of her students - that's how she reached them. ("You will never reach someone if you vilify what's important to them..."). Ms. G believed in him before he knew how to believe in himself. She recognized his love for words. Helped him to get to college. Grad school, Ph.D

Remarkable story. Compelling story of healing, hope, and love.