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Jason G. was a graduation speaker for his sixth grade class last June in Lemon Grove, California. Jason’s story of a boy struggling in school who finds his voice has lessons for all of us who work with students. Here are Jason’s own words:

“In fourth grade, a wise man told me “Be a leader, not a follower.” Before then, I wasn’t a leader but I definitely made my own rules.

Rule #1 – ‘Get out of my way or get hurt.’ In second grade, I started fights with anyone who tried to challenge me. There was a time I walked out on a substitute and kicked the projector down. The lunch lady tried to keep me from recess so I cursed her out.

Rule #2 – ‘Don’t trust your friends.’ I was alone and felt that everyone was scared of me. The person who knew me the most was the principal. In fact, the office was like a second classroom to me.

Rule #3 – ‘School is a joke.’ I thought to myself, “What a waste of time.” School was a prison to me and teachers were just trying to keep me locked in. The truth is that I was ashamed because I felt like I couldn’t learn.”

That was the year Jason’s school started using Positive Action. He began to pick up some of the critical skills he had been missing.

“Fourth grade is where I changed my life around. I felt like I wasn’t being threatened. I felt safe. I made new friends and didn’t care to fight. I realized I’m great at science, math, and of course, PE. It’s a lot more fun to be in class, not the office. By sixth grade, I was the Positive Action Sumo and felt like the little ones looked up to me. I took lead in different activities like reading groups and motivating my class at PE.”

We have to assume that a Positive Action “Sumo” is a heavy-weight in doing the right thing.