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Original freedom writer inspires NEISD students

Manny Scott visit

Manny Scott has spoken for the Department of Education and the National Education Association in the past.

With approximately 68,000 students in North East ISD, it can be easy to only see figures and statistics. But the truth is every student has a story, and it is important that every student’s story gets better throughout their lives.

Bringing that message home was Manny Scott, one of the students who inspired the character Marcus in the movie “Freedom Writers.” He shared his inner-city life story with students at Garner Middle School on Feb. 19, with the message that if you cut off the “weights” in your life and hang on to the “wings,” you can succeed.

By age 16, Scott’s story was almost over, missing 60-90 days per school year, from fourth- through ninth-grade. He eventually dropped out of school at age 14. Growing up in the inner-city, he lived in 26 different places and was exposed to extreme poverty, intolerance, violence, drug abuse and even witnessed the brutal murder of a close friend.

He stole his first car, broke into his first home and tried drugs when he was only 11 years old. He has seen his biological father for just 15 hours his entire life. His stepfather was addicted to crack and beat him, his mother and brother. All these factors led Scott to an unfortunate and dark conclusion:

“I was at the point where I felt like people like me aren’t supposed to make it,” said Scott. “It’s impossible for us to succeed.”

Manny Scott visit

Scott is the found of Ink International, Inc., a movement of people everywhere who want a more interesting story.

Garner students were captivated as he reflected on the pivotal moment that would change his life forever. He spoke of a “crossroads” moment on a park bench where he considered how he could push his deep anger and resentment onto others. At that same moment a man—a complete stranger to Scott—inspired him to change his perspective on life.

Manny heard that man say, in essence, “Just because you live in the hood, the hood doesn’t have to live in you;” “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your response;” “You can become the father you never had, and the man you’ve never met;” and, “You can create a future better than your past.”

The boy from a broken childhood returned to school, landing in the back of Erin Gruwell’s English class, a group now known worldwide as the Freedom Writers, portrayed in the 2007 MTV movie.

During the presentation, Scott used a series of questions and participation to meld the students’ and the teachers’ shared life experiences into the simple message: “You are not alone.” This brought an auditorium full of students and staff to share hugs and a few tears.

Staggered throughout the day, sixth, seventh and eighth graders and staff listened to Scott share his personal struggle. He opened with a movie trailer for the Paramount Picture production of“Freedom Writers,” then later flashed a photo of the actor who portrayed Marcus.

“In the movie his name is Marcus and Marcus captures a lot of who I used to be,” Scott said. “He’s an actor playing my real life story. And I used to bring all those issues to school.”

Ultimately, Scott realized he had to cut off the people who were weighing him down and “hold on to the wings,” such as his teachers and coaches.

Manny Scott Visit

Scott works to empower students and leaders to take responsibility for their own success.

“I beg you to take the opportunity that you have at this school with these teachers,” said Scott. “You have a chance to leave this room and go back to these classrooms and become the person that you know that you can be.”

Scott drove home the message that you can’t always control your environment or the way people treat you. “You do have the power to control your response to everything that happens to you," he said. "You have the power to decide how to response to life's challenges."

It was this realization that prompted Scott to return to school and after just one semester back in the classroom, he saw his grades go from F's and D's to A's and B's.

After high school, he attended the University of California - Berkley and earned two degrees. He is now pursuing a Ph.D.

Scott considers himself a “wounded healer,” because along his journey to heal himself, the energizing speaker aims to let students know that they can – and will – conquer obstacles that will lead to stories of success and happiness.

Scott shared his story again the next day at Nimitz Middle School.

Posted on February 20, 2014