You Are Not Alone


Sarah Anderson-Stewart, Staff Writer

From Freedom Writer to Inspiration 

Dr. Manuel Scott’s story is probably unlike any person you’ve ever heard of. Though he is most famously known for his story being partially told in the book and movie, Freedom Writers, he has made an impact worldwide with his message of hope and his belief that everyone can succeed. 

Don’t Judge an Assembly by Its Cover

We had the honor of having Dr. Scott speak at Tinley Park High School. He walked in silently from the back as the principal made her introductory speech. The principal introduced him and the trailer for the movie Freedom Writers began to play. The room was loud with many students talking to friends and socializing. Many were happy about the assembly because they could skip class that afternoon so to say the least, many people didn’t even know who Dr. Scott was. I’m sure many people thought this would be just another lesson on “being a good friend” or “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  There was one question we were all probably thinking: how would a complete stranger truly inspire us? We were in for a surprise. There is only one thing I can say to describe Manny Scott and that is: vulnerable.

He was completely honest with us. As he spoke he held no guard up and gave us raw untainted truths. He shared some of his darkest moments and some of his saddest experiences. He recalled moments in his life when he thought he would never make it. He said that as a teenager he felt helpless and that he felt there was no way for him to be better. He had no example set before him to show him the path and so eventually he realized he would have to be the example. He would have to set his standards and work on himself to be the best and truly live life to its fullest.

He shared that even when he got his life together there were struggles that he had to overcome. He shared with us some of the experiences he’s had with children and teachers after he spoke at schools–the kids who would cry out to him and tell him all their troubles. I’ve never seen an adult freely cry in front of a crowd, nevertheless a group of teenagers. In return to his vulnerability, the crowd told him their truths. Student after student stood as he asked deep and personal questions. To each he responded, “you are not alone.” It felt like we were just a group of people, sharing our grief, happiness, weakness, with each other and embracing them as equals. That was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever lived through. He taught us that no matter where we come from there is hope. Always hope and never lose sight.


When the assembly was over and you could meet him, I’m not lying when I say I’ve never seen so many teenagers so patient and considerate. They weren’t disrespectful or rude. They were patient as they waited for their chance to meet with him and so supportive of each other. When someone cried the rest of us cried with them, for them. One student simply asked to sing him a song. We all stood in amazement as she belted “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. She had the most angelic voice I’d ever heard. One student said “ I just want to succeed but I just don’t think I can” to which he responded with a hug and got the students email so they could be in contact. Student after student came to him sharing a piece of their hurt showing him how his words had given them a flicker of hope. I got to meet him, but very briefly. Time was running out and I’d rather him talk to someone else than with me. In those moments I knew there wasn’t enough time to get an interview, but it wasn’t necessary. I’d gotten all the things I needed. All that was left for me to do was one thing. I thanked him. I thanked him for the amazing things he was doing. I told him how much his words meant to me. He just smiled and gave me a hug. 

Unfortunately, Dr Scott told us that he would unfortunately not be public speaking anymore because of medical issues and his time friend would be taking over for him moving forward. I did get to speak to him briefly about how it felt to be taking this position. He told me there were huge shoes to fill and the opportunity in taking this position was a huge responsibility. He looked around the room and said that we see the effects having these conversations with students can have. He hopes he can keep Dr. Scott’s legacy alive and I believe he will. 

The Conclusion

Some of us might have forgotten this assembly by the next day. Students woke up, got dressed, and went to school like usual. However, some of us will gather his words in our hearts and clench onto them with everything we have. We will use them to make us stronger when we feel weak. We will use them to remind us of our drive to keep being the best version of ourselves. Every single hurtful, joyous, mournful, hopeful, word. They will lift us with their wings and strengthen us. And we will soar.

We will soar

In the words of Manny Scott:

“The word is not simply a scribbled symbol or a spoken sound, 

The word is not like a roaring lion that no one really fears,

The word has power,

And it can be your trusted friend or your most terrible foe,

You see like a seed, the word gives life

Like a lamp, the word gives light

Like a mirror, the word reflects

Like water, the word washes

Like fire, the word cleanses  

Like a hammer, the word shatters

Like a sword, the word cuts

Oh but like medicine, the word heals

And like a councilor, the word comforts

You see the word is alive, and it is waiting 

Waiting for you to summon it like a soldier, and send it into battle

So Speak”