In preparing for a staff development for educators, I give myself time before the presentation to get a sense of the staging and a feel for the audience. My keynote presentation in Ventura, Ca was no different. I stood in the back of the hall way as people from various departments filed into the main ballroom to get their sits. I am fully draped with my gang garb so it does not surprise me when I see the eyes of those passing by quickly turn away, hesitant to meet my gaze. It could be because of the way I dressed or maybe even because I appeared to be out of place. Nonetheless, I stood waiting to be introduced and to make my entrance.
I was thinking about how to begin the presentation and the path I wanted to take the audience when a Latino man approached me. He came to me with his arm extended reaching for a handshake and was very excited to see me. He said to me “I remember you”. In his enthusiasm he explained how when he was in high school, I came and presented to the entire student body. Then, a couple of years later, he saw me again at a student leadership conference. He was so happy to see me and without speaking so much of a word, he began to tell me his story.
In high school, he was what he considered a “wanna be”. He wasn’t taking school serious and from time to time was messing up by engaging in some kind of disruptive behavior. He had no direction and was pretty much going to follow the path of despair, like many of those he lived and associated with. After hearing my presentation for the first time, it sparked something inside that he could not explain. Although doubtful in his thoughts, he started to consider the possibility of other opportunities. After seeing the presentation a second time, he knew. He came to believe that if someone like me could make it then maybe he could too. He started to change.
I stood and listened to this man descride how although difficult, he graduated from high school, went on to get his BA from CAL, received his Master Degree and is currently completing his administrative credential. “I would have never done this if I did not see you those times when I thought I wanted to be a mess up. Thank you”.
I looked to this man and could not help but feel an over whelming sense of gratitude for his words. I reached to him and gave him a hug
“Excuse me, Mr. Chocolate. It time to go on”. The introduction was given and I was ushered in to take the stage.