Athens Review, Athens, Texas

February 21, 2013

Facing the tough facts

Speaker urges students to improve their lives

Jeff Riggs
The Athens Review

Athens — Motivational speaker Manuel Scott has been many things in his life that were not a symbol of being a success.

He told students at two Athens schools, including Athens High School Thursday that he has been a person who has seldom seen his father outside of where his father was in prison.  Scott admitted he has also been a smoker of “weed,” a person that broke into other people’s houses, and a number of other criminal practices.  He has also lived on the street, eating what he could find in different places, such as dumpsters behind restaurants.

It was early in his life that he spoke with a man who wanted to help him.  The man spoke with him for about 15 minutes.  That was enough to know that he didn’t have to live as he had, but could change.

“Just because you live in the hood, the hood doesn’t have to live in you,” he said. “I’m just a passing thought to you. I can’t change you.  Only you can change you. If I can do it, you can too.”

He told the students to look around, and note that they were not alone.  He asked those students to stand who had experienced the following and more:

• “Stand up, if like me, you will be the first person in your family to graduate from high school;”

Scott told them to “stand up, like me, if...

• ...you are being raised by a single parent;”

• ...one or both of your parents are alcoholics;”

• ...you have seen your beautiful mother hit by a man;”

• ...you have ended up getting hit yourself;”

• ...your parents were addicted to drugs;”

• ...you ever lost someone you loved to violence.”

• ...you feel as though one or both of your parents abandoned you;”

• ...you have thought about taking your own life.”

And the list continued, as AHS students, perhaps as many as 75-percent of them, continued to stand, as if confessing their experiences.

“It takes a lot of courage to do what you just did,” he said to those standing.

Scott stressed that the students needed to treat each other as family members, speaking to each other about their woes.

“Talk deeply to each other about the things in your life,” he said.

Scott asked the students to get out of their seats and physically hug those other students and friends that had listened to them in their darkest hours.  They followed his suggestion with tears in many of their eyes.

“There are people in this room that really love you,” he said. “You are not alone.”

Scott told the hundreds of students that only they can ultimately make themselves change, if they are in a bad situation.  They must consider where they will be in several years, and talk the situation over with each other and with counselors, if possible.

Manuel Scott is an Original Freedom Writer whose story is told in the Hollywood movie, “Freedom Writers.”

He has appeared on “The View” with Barbara Walters, and on “Nightline.”