Being in prison, not one, but two times and having 60 detectives arrest him, most would think, that that man will never amount to anything.
However, Victor Woods, turned his life around after nine and one half years in prison, and is now a motivational speaker and he visited the campus of the Sciotoville Community Schools, to first speak to the East High and Middle School students and then was to speak to the parents and community Monday evening and then to the Elementary students on Tuesday morning.
Woods has written a book called, “A Breed Apart: My Journey to Redemption.” He started out his presentation by saying to the students in attendance,”You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” He told the group of students that he knew that none of them wanted to come to school and be made to feel bad, as he was speaking a little on bullying. He told them that when they see something being done to someone else, whether it be verbal or physical, to “do something about it.”
Woods talked to the students about doing something they have a passion for and not to let anyone tell them they can’t do something. They can do anything they want to do.
“When people tell you, you can’t do something, you tell them you know you can!”
Woods continued to tell the student body, that he was such a big criminal that he had his picture on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, along with five other criminals. When he was in high school, he started his own newspaper. “Then later, after prison, I wrote my own book. It took me about two years or more, but I did.” He went on to say he had sold 75,000 copies of this book for $25 a piece, and asked them to do the math.
One thing he did was he asked the group if there was anyone who wanted to be a professional singer. Two people held up their hands. He then proceeded to ask if either one of them would come down out of the audience and sing. One very brave student, named Kyle Dunnagan, raised his hand and went down to the floor to join Woods to sing. Woods congratulated him for coming down, but then he handed him the microphone, asked him the name of his song and told him to sing. Before he had him sing, he talked to the group about what to do when opportunity knocks and how their answer could change their lives.
Dunnagan proceeded to sing in front of the entire student body with no music, “Just Say You Won’t Let Go.” Woods then spoke of how Dunnagan would be successful and he knew, because he was brave enough to answer when opportunity knocked. Woods proceeded to talk about how someone who is what they think successful now in school, may not turn out that way after high school. He also brought up that they needed to speak up when it came to something they were having trouble with, to tell someone, whether they are hooked on drugs, have parents hooked on drugs, alcoholic, or if they were being touched inappropriately, or just in some kind of trouble, they needed to speak up. “Take control of your community,” he told them.
Dunnagan, later, talked about his getting up and singing in front of everyone, he said, “it was great, but at the same time, I have been singing my whole life, so I’m used to it I guess.”
Woods gave them some small stories to tell them to not let others say they cannot make it, and how his own grandmother told him he couldn’t make it. And he told of how that Warner Bros. contacted him now and want to make his book into a mini series. “You can’t make this up, I went to prison and so, what can you do? You can make it, you can make it!” He said he is now taking an acting class, because he wants to play a part in the mini series, not the main part. He showed them a jacket he had that he himself made, which was a jean jacket where he had precisely placed patches on it, that mean something to him personally. He had on the jacket, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Elvis, Amy Winehouse, and even Mickey Mouse and how proud he was because he made it himself.
He genuinely spoke to them about how he did not want them to go and smoke ‘weed’ or drink alcohol, just because they have given up hope. “It’s okay to be different, it’s okay to dress different,” and how that if they simply say please and thank you and ask someone how their day is, they will be different, and it will make a difference. He gave the students something to think about by telling them the people they see in their lives, maybe those who no longer have teeth or something similar, due to drug use, that they at one time were in high school, just like them and did they think that that would happen to them back then? Is that what they wanted to do with their lives? No of course not.
He concluded with letting the students ask questions and they asked things like, how long he was in prison, what was it like, and someone asked him if he could go back and change something from before and he quickly answered that he would surely change things like not getting in trouble in the first place, not embarrassing his parents, not listening to his grandmother and so forth.
Several of the students wanted to speak of how they felt about Mr. Woods and his presentation. Jasmine Jordon, Miss East for River Days, had as her platform helping people with drug problems and she said of the day’s presentation, ” I would have loved to have had him at my event because of how he feels about the opioid problem in the country. I think that they enjoyed it and he really kept their attention.”
Luke Bradley added, “I think everyone listened and that he may have made a difference in someone and that the school and community needed to hear him.”
Kailyn Hackworth spoke. “I think he got their attention, and he made them feel like they could make a change, during some parts of his presentation, I even got a little teary-eyed.”
Kathleen Robinson continued by saying, “I felt it was great, because a lot of kids at this school are going down hill and they need motivation, I think it will spread through the community, he’s going to speak more, and stay around a bit to try to help our community.”
” I’m really glad he came here, he really helped a lot,” said Victoria Escamili. “I think we should do more around this area, because we have a lot of problems with drugs and we have a lot of kids come from very low income. I think he’d really be a big inspiration around here.”
The student service director at the High School, Corey Ruby said, “I think what people don’t realize is, he is speaking the way they need spoken to, it’s difficult. It’s real. You can’t beat around the bush. A guy like this comes in and tells it like it is is what they need.”
Woods did not ‘pull any punches’ with this group, but he also encouraged them to make changes that will make them successful in life. The students were attentive and were involved with his presentation even after it was over, by making their way down to talk with Woods and having a photo taken with him.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740) 353-3101 exrt. 1928