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'Freedom Writer' to speak about hope and inspire teachers, students

RELEASED: March 17, 2011

Manuel Scott
Manuel Scott

EAU CLAIRE — A former teen who was written off by teachers and whose life was portrayed in a Hollywood movie is the featured speaker for the eighth annual Martin Mogensen Education Lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Manuel Scott will bring "A Message of Hope" to Eau Claire area educators at 3:30 p.m. April 1 in Hibbard Humanities Hall Room 102. He will share his extraordinary story and offer the audience real-life examples of the transformative power educators can have in their students' lives. The movie "Freedom Writers" was drawn from the experiences of Scott and other down-and-out youths whose lives were changed by a teacher who believed in them.

By the age of 16, Scott had lived in 26 different places and had been in and out of many school systems. His grammar was so poor that he was classified as an English-as-a-second-language student. He began using drugs and alcohol.

"When I look back, I now see that I was heading down a path that would have destroyed me," Scott said.

In one particular classroom in Long Beach, Calif., and along with a group of students regarded as "unreachable," his life was changed by a young teacher who committed herself to helping them. Erin Gruwell encouraged her students to write about their experiences with poverty, abuse and ostracism and express their ideas. The project eventually became a book and then the premise for a movie.

According to Scott, hope is the key ingredient for creating engaged students and inspired educators despite the seemingly insurmountable odds facing many districts today. Scott's message is about how to create a culture of excellence and achievement in schools and communities. While at UW-Eau Claire, Scott also will hold a workshop for faculty and staff and give a lecture for a student organization.

The presentation, sponsored by the College of Education and Human Sciences, is free and open to the public.

The Mogensen lecture series, which is part of a teacher education outreach effort, was established to honor Martin Mogensen, a 1952 UW-Eau Claire graduate. Mogensen became one of the first victims of school shootings in this country when, at the age of 46, he was killed by a student in the Tomah school where he served as principal. Two of his daughters, Marti Mogensen and Margaret Mogensen Nelson Brinkhaus, both graduates of UW-Eau Claire, and other family members and friends support the lecture series through the Martin Mogensen Education Lecture Fund of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

Brinkhaus and her sister Mary Mogensen Hardie will present the Martin Mogensen Education Scholarship at the lecture. It will be given to a Wisconsin education major who has attained a high level of scholarship and who shows promise for becoming a successful teacher. Marti Mogensen and Brinkhaus established the scholarship fund as another tribute to their father.

For more information about the lecture or scholarship, contact Dr. Gail Scukanec at scukangp@uwec.edu or 715-836-3264.

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RD/JP

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