Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ralph R. McKee High School ~ 10/4/2012

Today I visited my Alma Mater - Ralph R. McKee High School in Staten Island, NY. At the invitation of the school's wonderful principal, Ms. Sharon Henry, I went to speak with the students about my experience as a student at the school from 1989-1992, and my experience in my life after graduation.


It wasn't the first time I've been a guest speaker at the school. I've gone back often over the past year or so to share my story and to motivate the students to push past the obstacles that they may face and succeed. I shared my experience as a popular student who became a teen mother, and was told by a teacher that I was doomed to be on welfare for the rest of my life. I explained how that experience was one of the best things that happened to me. I saw the surprise on their faces when I made that statement. But it's true. Her condemnation fueled my determination to succeed. Had I not been subjected to the stares and whispers of my fellow students, teachers, and neighbors, I may not have been motivated to prove them all wrong. That pivotal moment in my life spurred me toward living up to my greatest potential so that I could prove the naysayers wrong.

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But, I wasn't just there today to discuss my story. Instead, I wanted to give the students an assignment as it pertains to their story. I had a couple of questions for them to answer; questions that would begin to set them on the path toward living their own lives to the fullest potential. I started out by reminding them that the four years in high school are pivotal. It's during those years that they transform from children into young adults. And, it is during those four years that they must set their minds on discovering where their passion lies so that they can be fulfilled in the careers that they choose. The questions I asked them would help them differentiate between choosing a career that they love and settling for a job that simply pays the bills.

QUESTION #1: 

On the surface, the answers to this question may seem simple. I used myself as an example. I am Tracy Brown. I am a black female. But once we get past the obvious answers, we start to go deeper into truly answering the question. I am a writer. I am a poet. I am a talker...

I challenged the students to write down the question and to list ten answers to the question. Some balked at the idea of listing TEN answers. But I insisted that within the ten answers to that question, they would discover where their passions lie. Perhaps, in writing down: "I am an artist", or "I am a boss" or "I am a leader", or maybe even "I am a bully", they will begin to discover some truths about themselves. It's not too often that we step outside of ourselves to give an honest assessment of who we are and what we're all about. Maybe in answering the question "Who are you?" they can uncover some aspects of their lives that they wish to change. But one thing is certain: they will discover the things that make them happy, that make them feel fulfilled. And in discovering those things, a first major step will be taken toward determining what career will bring them the most success. 


One of the things I've discovered in my life so far is that when you get paid to do what you LOVE to do, it doesn't really feel like work. I gave an example of a girl who hates her job at a fast food joint, and her hatred of her job is displayed in the lackluster way that she performs it. By contrast, someone who loves their job wears a smile on their face, and actually looks forward to the tasks at hand. I wanted them to figure out who they are - what brings them joy, what motivates them - so that they can target a career in the fields where their joy resides. Someone who answers "I'm a rapper" should clearly be aiming for a career in music, even if that's not what their parents or guardians have in mind for them. As they approach adulthood, it's about finding their own definition of happiness, not someone else's.


QUESTION #2:

What is your role in YOUR story?

As a writer, I am often approached by people who feel that they have an amazing story to tell. The truth is, every single one of us has a unique story. Some are horror stories, some are love stories, some are stories of triumph and some are stories of defeat. The question we have to answer is: what role am I playing in my story? Am I the victim? Am I the hero/heroine? Am I the protagonist? The villain? The narrator? A sub-character or the main character? By defining who we are and what role we play in our own story, we make a decision about whether we take control of our lives or instead just react to the plot twists that inevitably come. Again, using myself as an example, I pointed out that I could have easily gotten comfortable in the victim role in my own story. I was a young, abandoned teen mother in the projects who was being talked about and condemned. I could have accepted my teacher's assertion that I would be on welfare for the rest of my life. I could have accepted the stereotype that many labeled me as, and just given up. But, instead I chose to turn my seemingly tragic story into one of triumph. When I set out to "write the story of my life", I cast myself in the role of victor as opposed to victim. I challenged the students to decide what their own roles would be in their story. 

As a kind of "homework assignment", I asked the students to visit this blog and to post the answers to the questions that I posed to them today. I'm hopeful that in the comments below, they will list their responses and demonstrate their views on who they are and what roles they have decided to play in the stories of their lives. I can hardly wait to read their responses!

One of the best things about my career as a writer is that I get the chance to talk to young people and, hopefully, to motivate them to greatness. But it's not just the youth who can benefit from the exercises I demonstrated in those classrooms today. We should all be asking ourselves who we are and what roles we have cast ourselves in. It's never too late to change. I invite you all to list your answers below, or at the very least to list them in your own personal notebook so that you can see where your passions lie and how you can redefine your role in this wonderful thing called life. 



*Students who do not wish to list their answers publicly can email their responses to me at TracyBrownWrites@aol.com

65 comments:

  1. Mrs Tracy brown I am one of the students who was in the class you spoke to. My name is Christopher Acosta and I figure out who I am. I am:
    a sneakerhead
    football player
    annoying
    a kind person
    a clown
    a procrastinator
    car maniac
    determine worker
    history freak
    a paintball player
    The role in my story is a person who is trying hard just to get by in school, but from listening to you today it really made a difference. I should shoot for the moon if I miss I land in the stars.Mrs Brown everyone in that class was touched by a woman who complete her dreams of becoming a writer.So thank out Mrs Brown and good luck with the writing career.

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    1. Christopher, WONDERFUL work! You were very honest with yourself in this challenge, and I think you came up with ten great descriptions of yourself. I'm so happy that you listened to me today and that you've decided to shoot for the moon. You and the rest of your class touched my heart as well. Remember: Dream BIG! Anything is possible. Keep up the great work.

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    2. Hi Tracy Brown, its me Zeenat I enjoyed your visit to our class on October 4. I would like to answer the question who am I?
      -A writer
      -A dreamer
      -A adventorous person
      -A Muslim female
      -A laughing person
      -A amazing person
      -I love my eyes they get the most attention
      -A hard-wprket
      -A stubborn woman
      - A clumsy person
      -A person who wrote 4 novels completing her 5th

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    3. Jennifer Taub, & I am;

      1)dancer
      2)cheerleader
      3)reader
      4)student
      5)nerd
      6)nice
      7) loner
      8) actress
      9)annoying
      10) quiet

      The role that i play in my story of life is,the quiet person. The one that just tries to get through the day without making anyone upset with me.. & or mad at me.. And i just try my hardest..

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    4. NICHOLAS, YOU DID A GREAT JOB RESPONDING TO OUR QUESTIONS AT MCKEE HIGH SCHOOL. i BELIVE BY YOU EXPRESSING YOU SELF FROM YOUR STRUGLES IN LIFE AND HOW YOU BECAME SO SUCCESFUL TODAY. I APPRESIATE YOUFOR COING TO VIST MCKEE HIGH SCOOL AND HOPE YOU CAN COME AGAIN.

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    5. Hello Mrs. Tracy Brown,
      I am student at Mckee High School and you came in my 2nd period class to talk about you life experience. After you came and discuss with us who we are it connected to me because I know who I am now. My name is Matthew Cori and I am:
      a runner
      a smart student
      a musician
      a gamer
      a great friend
      and a determined person
      The role in my story is a person who is trying to succeed in life, but with you coming into my classroom really helped me revealing my true self. Thank for coming to my class and good luck in the future

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  2. Ms.Tracy Brown i am one the students you talked to Noor Sheikh i would have to say your words touched my soul my body and my mind i have to thank you for your time and i hope you come back again

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    1. Noor, thank you for your response. It was wonderful speaking with your class. I hope to see you all again soon. Keep reaching for the stars!

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  3. hello I am Brandon colvil from one of the classes you went to. I just want to say that i am going to start reading one of your books. Can't wait!

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    1. Great! I appreciate you reading my books. But, don't stop there. Read all kinds of books! The more you read, the more you'll know. Keep up the good work. :-)

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  4. hey my name is efren munoz ,i attend ralph r mckee high school and i think that you are a unique person because you have gone from nothing in life to being a succesful person. thank you for comming to our school and motivating ous, hope u can come again.

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    1. Efren, thanks for responding. I will definitely come again and I look forward to seeing you. Keep up the good work. :)

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  5. Hello I am Christopher Aztegui from one of the classes you visted. I'm going to begin to read one of your books. Hope too see you soon!

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    1. Thanks, Christopher. Reading is the key to knowledge. I hope you enjoy my books and that you don't stop there. Read everything you can get your hands on! :)

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  6. Good Morning Tracy, I'm Sabrina & I enjoyed your visit to our AVID class on October 4th. I'm willing to answer your question towards us students. WHO AM I ? WELL....
    -Just an Ordinary Muslim Female
    -Reckless
    -Careless
    -Nice & Caring
    -I want to live my life to the fullest
    -I HATE READING !
    -I wnjoy dancing
    -LOVE to make new friends
    -I'm very adventurous
    -I love to laugh & smile & i find it EXTREMELY amazing when people make me smile. :]
    -I LOVEEE Sleeping because it get's A LOT of shit off my mind.
    -I want to work hard now so in the end it pays off ! :]

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    1. LOL Wonderful and honest answers, Sabrina! You are awesome! Dance like nobody's watching and keep living life to the fullest. There is nothing "ordinary" about you. :) Keep up the great work.

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  7. HEY TRACY MY NAME IS ROB AN YOU CAME INTO MY AVID CLASS SOMETIME IN OCTOBER AND YOU TALKED TO US ABOUT OUR FUTURES AND HOW WE CAN REACH SUCCESS. SINCE YOU CAME INTO OUR CLASS I HAVE BEEN THINKING MORE ABOUT COLLEGE
    - THANK YOU FOR COMING IN, IM SURE OUR CLASS REALLY APPRECIATED IT.
    -ROB

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    1. Rob, this made me smile today! I'm so glad that you have been thinking about college since our talk. You can achieve GREATNESS if you commit yourself to it. Keep me posted!

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  8. hey tracy. You came to visit my class a few days ago. I am in ms.Kenavans AVID class. You probably recognize me. I am the Tall, Handsome Young Man with Braids :). I really admire how you overcame all the disbelievers and people that told you that you would never make it. I hope my success story is as great as yours! Keep up the good work and keep coming to schools and sharing your story to the kids. Your success can be motivation to a teenager that was in a position similar to you. - Tahrel T.

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    1. This was the best..

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    2. Tahrel, thank you! We have to let our haters be our motivators. So whenever someone tells us we "can't", we have to prove them wrong. You will have a success story even GREATER than mine. Watch! :) Thanks for your comments. Keep dreaming BIG!

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  9. Hello Ms. Tracy. This is Maliyah Greene. I really enjoyed your discussion the other day about how you started writing books. I also love to write and have enjoyed all of your books. I read your stories all the time and so do all of my friends. Thanks so much for coming to visit us.

    P.S. I can't wait until you publish a new book!

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    1. Heyyyyyy, Maliyah. :-) I can't wait to read what you write someday. You are going to do GREAT things in the future and I will be watching and cheering you on. (I'm hard at work on a new book. Stay tuned. XOXO :)

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  10. Mrs.Tracy Brown I am one of the students you talked to, your words really hit home, I know a lot of people that are currently in the position you were in so many years ago. I am:
    I am video game player
    I am an African american male
    I am a average student
    I am on my way to a successful life after High School

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    1. Wonderful! Keep analyzing who you are and what you want to become. The sky is the limit! Dream BIG!

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  11. Good Morning I'm sarish, the role of my life is to succeed and just live life the way i want to.

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    1. Great role, Sarish. Best of luck to you. Your future looks bright!

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  12. Well, the role of me in my life is to make my dream a reality. I wanna make something out of my life. I dont wanna be known as a drop-out. HELL NNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But someone who never took their life for granted

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    1. YOU GO SARIIIISSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    2. WOW!!! I love this! You keep this outlook and you will be UNSTOPPABLE! :)

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  13. Hello, Tracy. I'm Avery Loukas from one of the classes you visited. I told you that I write poetry and you gave me one of your books. I don't feel like I have a particular role in my own story yet and I appreciate that you were the one who brought that to my attention.

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    1. Hi, Avery. I would love to read some of your work. If you ever need a critique, email me at TracyBrownWrites@aol.com. I hope you enjoy the book. Keep analyzing what your role is in your own story. YOU (and you alone) are the author of your destiny. Dream BIG! :)

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  14. hello ms.brown,my name is raul i read the blog you wrote and i thank you for comeing to our school you made me think of life in a new way.

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    1. Hi, Raul. Thank you for your comments. So glad that I made you think in a new way. Anything is possible. Remember that!

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  15. Hello Mrs Tracy Brown you came to my 2nd period class and spoke to us.Your story is truly inspiring to all because it shows that anyone can achieve their dream in life. My Name Is Patrick Meehan and I Know Who I Am. I Am:
    I Am A DJ. I Am A Musician. I Am A Move Maker. I Am Me.
    My Role in my story is a person who is trying to make his music career take off but if it doesnt, I Have a backup Plan in law enforcement. Thanks for listening. Stay up!

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    1. Patrick, this is FANTASTIC! I love that you have a Plan A & a Plan B. When you blow up and become a superstar, remember me! :) Keep up the great work!

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  16. Hii Tracy Brown I really enjoyed you going to our class and telling us about your life story, and how you have succeeded. I am going to read your books. And just how you said to go for what we want, you have inspired me so I'm going to make my dreams come true. Hope you keep writing more books and wish you the best in life. Thank you for visiting our class, hope you come back to visit again.

    -Nancy Garcia

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    1. Nancy, thank you. I will definitely be back again. Keep dreaming BIG dreams. Anything is possible with hard work and determination. I expect great things from you. <3

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  17. Hello Ms.Brown, My name is Marissa i was one of the students when you visited my school Ralph R. McKee. Thank you for coming to my school.

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    1. Thank you, Marissa. I appreciate you listening and giving me your feedback. Hope to see you again soon.

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  18. Hey ms Tracy Brown, i'm one of the students you came and talked to a few days ago in Ms. Kenavan's AVID class second period. I figured out the type of person i am.
    I am:A basketball player
    i was a hot head when i was younger and still am to this day
    i'm a calm person
    i don't really stress anything but i still get the things that i need to do done
    I am a responsible person
    Take certain things very serious
    take jokes to an extent such as racist comments
    Can stand immature people
    always hung out with people older than me my whole life just for the maturity level
    But im just a kid trying to make it by in school and try to balance work and sports equally and make sure my grades stay on point

    -Marquise.P

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    1. Marquise,
      Great work. You did a lot of self-examination. That's one of the keys to success. Keep those grades up and keep a positive attitude. See you at the top! :)

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  19. Hi Ms.Tracy Brown, I'm Augustine Josiah from one of the classes you went to and I like what you do and I would like to read one of your books.

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    1. Thanks, Augustine! Hope to see you again soon. Keep up the great work.

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  20. Hi my name is Israel venicio and i liked your story because it was how you told your self never to quit in life and find a career that you liked.Also that you convinced kids that its not to late to change their lives.

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    1. Israel, thanks! It's never too late to change for the better. Thanks for listening. Dream BIG!

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  21. hey ms.Brown, My name is Alison. One of those students in Rapl R. Mckeee. I enjoyed your vivist to our class. I was very intreged in what you had to say, All your experienc in high school made me think that perheps my classmates and i have a chance to succeed in life. Thank you soo soo much for coming to ours school. I hope we can get to see you next year, but for now i will be enjoying to looking forward to reading your novels. Xx :D

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    1. Hi, Alison! Remember, you can do anything you dream of. All you have to do is work hard and never lose sight of your goals. I will see you next year. XOXO

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  22. Hello on October 4th you spoke to our second period class. You told us that no matter what that we should strive to accomplish our goal. You also gave a speech on writing, you said that is can be more than just an assignment assigned by a teacher. You said we can use writing as a venting process. Thank you for visiting our class and talking.

    -Tm

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    1. Tim, thanks for listening! Never stop striving for your goals. You can achieve whatever you work hard for. :)

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  23. Hi my name is anonymous and you came to my avid class.I think it was really inspiring that you overcame all of the peoples negative opinions. You are really inspiring

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    1. Thanks! We can turn every negative into a postive if we are determined to succeed. Keep up the good work!

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  24. Dear Ms.Tracy brown I am
    -playful
    -fun
    -annoying at points
    -athletic
    -funny
    -an a$$hole at some times
    -forgetful
    -nice
    -& hyper active

    My role in the story is...
    I do not know yet I'm still trying to figure it out but hopefully it is to do something great and be successful. P.A.W

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    1. Prince, you will do GREAT things. Good work. Hope to see you next year. :)

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  25. Hi Tracy brown My name is Barbara i was really happy you came to McKee to see us you made me realize that you can always achieve something if you put your mind to it and as a teen mom how many people thought you would always be on wealth fare and you proved them wrong.My role of my story is i am
    -always smiling even if im hurting inside
    -a kind and caring person
    -pregnant
    -single teen mom
    -a risk taker
    -hard worker
    -a singer
    -a dreamer
    -a sophmore
    Thank you for making me realize that you can move on and achieve in life and see that education is always the best thing to do.Good luck on writing you next novel.

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    1. Barbara, this is TERRIFIC! Thanks for listening. Especially as a teen mom, I want to encourage you to keep your dreams alive. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't achieve. I'm here if you ever need to talk. ANYTIME! My email is TracyBrownWrites@aol.com. Ms. Marsigliano has my number as well. Please let her know if you ever want to give me a call. I've been there. You can and you WILL make it! Dream BIG!! <3

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  26. Hello ms.brown my name is jose rojas i enjoyed when you came to our avid class because you inspired everyone to achieve their goals .You proved you can do the impossible when you overcome your obstcles .Now im trying to read more especially read one of your books thank you for arriving to our school and i hope you come back to visit our class.

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    1. Jose, that's fantastic! Read, read, READ! Not just my books. Read the newspaper, read magazines and read lots and lots of books. I hope to see you again soon. Keep up the good work!

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  27. Tracy, Thank you so much for being an inspiration to our students over at McKee. Seeing a beautifully talented, and well respected former student take their dreams and turn them it into realities are exactly what these students need. You truly are an inspiration for not only the McKee community, but for all of those who struggle to find their place in this world.

    Thank you again. Can't wait to read some of your novels.

    Ms. Kenavan
    Avid/English

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    1. Thank you, Ms. Kenavan! I truly appreciate your support and encouragment. Keep up the great work that you're doing with your students each and every day!

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  28. I just read through all of these responses. =) Proud to call you my mom. This ALMOST(!!) made me a little soft and pink inside. But I'm too tough for that. I love you! Good Job Tracy Brown ;)

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    1. I love you, too, Sweetie. <3 I'm proud that you're my daughter! XOXO

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  29. HI MS. TRACY BROWN!!!!! I am a senior of Ralph r. McKee high school. I don't know if you know this, but a great counselor is starting a men's and women's empowerment group to help kids to start acting like respectable young men and women. Do you think you would be interested in coming by and speaking again...? If so, and would like more information, please contact Mrs. Marsigliano at: lmarsigliano@schools.nyc.gov. It would be great to have you back! I remember the first time you came to school, what an inspiration it was to have a bestselling and critically acclaimed author, who's also an alumnus of MY school, come and talk to us! I hope you can do it again soon!!

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    1. Hi, Malcolm!
      I love this idea! Ms. Marsigliano is the best. I have told her that I am eager to help out. I will be a part of these groups and I am so EXCITED! Thanks for thinking of me. I will see you soon! XOXO

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