Marvin Byrd, a seventh-grader at Lewis Fox Middle School had heard the advice before: stay away from the wrong crowd and focus on getting A's and B's.
After hearing it again Thursday - this time from three doctors who beat the mean streets of Newark, N.J., and went on to successful careers - Marvin said he will begin taking the advice to heart.
About 250 students and faculty members filed into the Fox auditorium after school was dismissed Thursday to hear "The Three Doctors," a trio of school buddies who supported each other academically and in rejecting the lives of crime, drugs or prison that awaited many of their friends.
The men - Sampson Davis, an emergency-medicine physician; Rameck Hunt, an internist; and George Jenkins, a dentist - urged students to focus on success in class and to turn their backs on negative influences. Students also received a copy of "We Beat the Street," a youth-oriented version of Davis' best-selling "The Pact," a book about the three doctors' success story.
The men used their own social and academic struggles while growing up in Newark to relate to the Fox students in the audience, a group composed mostly of Hispanic and black seventh- and eighth-graders.
Hunt explained to students how a run-in with the law set him on the path to success. Davis explained how his two pals, Jenkins and Hunt, set him straight when he showed no interest in a medical career. Jenkins told students about how his once-crooked teeth - and frequent visits to the dentist as a youngster - inspired him to pursue a career in dentistry.
All along, the doctors urged the students to achieve success so they, too, could give back to their community when they were older.
"You can be whatever you want," Jenkins told the students. "It sounds crazy, I know."
Keith Polk, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, said the doctors inspired him to "never give up and to always give it your all."
Faculty members cheered the speakers' presentation, saying the impact of their message was already being absorbed by the students. The message, Fox Principal Andrew Serrao said, was made more effective because Davis, Hunt and Jenkins grew up in a situation and community much like the one Fox students call home.
"I am pretty certain that hearing these gentlemen speak today definitely has inspired them and given them hope that they can all achieve their hopes and dreams," Serrao said, calling the presentation a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for his students.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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