MODESTO (CBS13) — A man who grew up around drugs and gangs is back in Modesto to talk about how a teacher helped turn his life around.
His life as a teen became a character in the movie Freedom Writers.
Manny Scott is now a motivational speaker. He speaks to kids about his struggles when he was a teen. He came to Modesto where educators and their students are dealing with suicide, gangs and drugs.
On the big screen he’s known as Marcus. In real life, he’s just Manny Scott.
“I come from a broken situation. My father’s been gone, mother was struggling. I lived in 26 places, homeless, eating out of dumpsters, dropped out of school, best friend was murdered.”
It would be a teacher, played by Hilary Swank in the movie Freedom Writers, who became a key influence in Manny’s life, to beat the odds.
Manny is now working on his PhD. He’s a pilot and a motivational speaker with three kids.
“Don’t you give up. I don’t care what your mama said about you.”
Manny was brought in by the Stanislaus County Office of Education right before the start of the school year to help students like Brian Hodges.
“Gangs, violence, drugs—a lot of just everything you see daily on Modesto streets.”
At just 16, Brian is on probation for robbery, and says he deals with a lot of peer pressure at school to continue a troubled life.
“I’ve heard there’s a lot of discouragement, a lot of despair, some drugs, some gang violence.”
And Manny’s message to students, their parents and teachers: Never give up.
He says it took only a few encouraging words from adults who cared to give him motivation for a lifetime.
“If I can overcome these things, you can, too, if you’re willing to work.”
The office of education says there are 4,500 gang members in the county, but it is unknown how many are kids and teens.
The office starts reaching out to students about gangs starting in elementary school.