‘I don’t think you are fully aware how powerful you are’
Freedom?Writer gives teachers pep talk at Opening Day
Educators, administrators and members of the surrounding communities heard from an original Freedom Writer Friday, and were asked to renew their commitment to the work they’re doing during North Central Ohio Educational Service Center’s Opening Day event.
By the age of 16, Manny Scott had felt his life’s story was over. He had lived in 26 places and dropped out of school by the age of 14. Scott also missed 60-90 days of school each year from fourth through ninth grade.
Scott said he fell so far behind, administrators and teachers thought English was a second language for him.
During the first semester of his freshman year, Scott earned a GPA of 0.6.
Scott told of how his best friend, who had a high grade-point average, was on the honor roll and on his way to the University of California, was killed on his way to visit Scott.
“If someone like him couldn’t make it out of our neighborhood, how could I?” Scott said.
Scott said it was like people like those in the audience who helped make him into the man he is today.
“I don’t think you fully aware how powerful you are,” Scott said.
During his talk, Scott told of how his father has been incarcerated his entire life — Scott has only seen his father 11 times for a total of 15 hours.
Scott’s stepfather struggled with addiction and terrorized his family.
“As a young boy, I did everything in my power to fight for my mother, to protect my mother to try to save my mother,” Scott said.
One night, Scott said, he was wondering around aimlessly and sat down on a park bench. A total stranger came up to him and pleaded for Scott to not turn out the way he did.
Scott turned the page of his story and returned to school and ended up in Erin Gruwell’s English class — a group known as the Freedom Writers, which was portrayed in the 2007 MTV movie.
“Mrs. G made me realize we all have a voice and she helped me find mine,” Scott said.
Scott said Gruwell made her classroom the only place her students felt safe.
“Her hope was contagious and our success belonged to her,” Scott said. “Believe in someone’s belief in you until your own belief sets in.”