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Potter Jr. High students hear from motivational speakers

FALLBROOK – On June 8, seventh graders at Potter Junior High attended an assembly presented by the Freedom Writers, whose amazing story of transformation despite overwhelming odds sparked a national bestseller, “The Freedom Writers Diary: How 150 teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them” and a major motion picture, which was released in 2007. The event was dedicated to the memory of a student at Potter who lost his life recently as a result of gang violence in Vista.

Speakers Tony Becerra and Sharaud Moore shared their personal stories of how they overcame childhoods in poverty in a racially divided area replete with gang violence. Their inspirational message focused on how having high self-expectations leads to making positive choices in life.

“It is never wrong to do the right thing,” said Moore. Becerra used his engaging, humorous style to deliver his positive message of staying away from negative influences and being a positive role model for others.

“You must make the right choices, not just for yourself, but for your sisters, your brothers, and everyone who comes after you. You can make the path for others to follow.”

After the presentation, the speakers stayed through the lunch break to shake hands with students, sign autographs, and answer questions.

The assembly was well received by students and staff.

“The speakers held the kids’ attention like I’ve never seen before,” said Brad Fox, a science teacher at Potter. Teacher Ann Brennan, who organized the assembly, noted similar reactions among students. “As I watched my students listen with rapt attention to these amazing role models, I saw the glimmer of hope in their eyes, and I thought: this is a day our students will never forget. They are seeing an example of what is possible. It can give them the courage they need to make a change, or to continue moving forward in the right direction.”

One student related to the speakers’ experiences about growing up in a dangerous neighborhood. “I live in a gang zone but I’m not in the gang. It is hard to live like that. They have offered me to be in the gang and do bad things. You have inspired me to stay out of the gang and keep studying so I could go to college like you.”

Principal Tere Peterson explained why she wanted to offer this event to students. “Often time middle schoolers feel disconnected to school and unable to set goals in order to plan for their future.”

The event was co-sponsored by the San Diego County Office of Education’s Promoting Achievement and Student Success (PASS) program.

The PASS Program is a school based gang prevention/intervention mentoring program managed by SDCOE. Trained staff is placed at the school site where they provide consistent services for targeted at-risk students, providing individual and group mentoring, discussions, tutoring, grades and attendance reviews, community service projects, guest speakers, and field trips.


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