Cumberland County’s educators and supporters heard firsthand Tuesday about the vital role they play from a man whose real-life struggles have been portrayed in a hit movie.
Manuel “Manny” Scott’s early life was portrayed as the character Marcus in the 2007 film “Freedom Writers”. He spoke during a Cumberland County Schools virtual community event called “Gathering of the Village.”
The event focused on how families, educators and community members can work together for student success, school officials said. Almost 180 participants learned about the needs of the school system and how they can help.
Education: Cumberland County Schools will be in person for the 2021-22 school year
Scott told event attendees that life is at best about service.
“And it was people like you who helped me become the man I am today,” he said.
The film is based on Erin Gruwell’s 1999 book The Freedom Writers Diary. The film and book are about Gruwell, an English teacher at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, California, and her students who study the Have compiled a book from real diary entries about their life. The American actor Jason Finn plays Marcus in the film.
Scott opened the event by singing “If I Could Help Somebody” by Mahalia Jackson. He shared his life story to remind educators and community partners that thanks to people like them, children like him can thrive in spite of adversity.
Scott said he grew up in prison with his birth father in what he called the projects. As a child, he saw his crack-addicted stepfather smack his mother’s head through a glass window and kill her.
âPoverty is not just a lack of money, it is a lack of access to people who can help you,â said Scott. “And in that sense, I was very poor in most of my schools.”
Scott said his best friend also died.
“My best friend Alex was killed on the way to me,” said Scott. âWhen I lost Alex, I lost hope because I was convinced I wouldn’t leave if he couldn’t make it out of our neighborhood – he was smarter than me, he worked harder than me, he was better than me to make it. “
After he hit rock bottom, Scott finally got the help he needed.
Local news: Cumberland’s budget is being scrutinized by local activists and the school board at a public hearing
Scott said he was fortunate to have teachers who realized that he and his classmates needed social, emotional, and material support that teachers couldn’t get on their own. As a result, he said, teachers turned to executives, companies, and other community members for help.
âThe community came together to help us succeed,â said Scott. “Because of this community of people, I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school.”
Scott is now married as an adult with three children, graduated from graduate school, and is a writer and motivational speaker.
âI became the father I never had, but always wanted. And I’ve never seen the husband in my own family, âsaid Scott. “And I’ve broken so many cycles.”
At the end of Scott’s speech, he encouraged parishioners to remember his story as they continue to support the school system for the benefit of students.
âBut I’m sharing this to impress you – that when you see me you will be reminded of what is possible when the community comes together and works with school districts to create environments that are conducive to the thriving of students . “
Cumberland County Schools is committed to promoting lifelong learning, said Superintendent Marvin Connelly in his closing remarks.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Connelly. âWe all have something in common, we care. Our community is very important to us. I represent more than 50,000 students and only 6,000 employees in our school system. “
Although Scott endured many challenges in his young life, he said that thanks to a teacher and community support, he was able to thrive as an adult.
âWhen you support Cumberland County Schools, you make stories like mine possible,â he said.
Health and Education Author, Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3561.
Support local journalism with a subscription to The Fayetteville Observer. Click the Subscribe link at the top of this article.