A moving celebration of education

Emmanuel Escamilla talks Wednesday about growing up with nothing, making it to Harvard and now helping children in Modesto through his CodeX program.
Emmanuel Escamilla talks Wednesday about growing up with nothing, making it to Harvard and now helping children in Modesto through his CodeX program. mbicek@modbee.com

We had many favorite moments from our “Innovate, Educate, Celebrate” Bee Amplified event Wednesday at the Gallo Center for the Arts. But the best actually came after the show ended. That’s when we heard from those who attended, explaining how much it all meant.

Several spoke of tears welling in their eyes as Emmanuel Escamilla charted his journey from “Devil’s Street” in south Modesto through Modesto’s schools to UC Berkeley and now graduate school at Harvard.

Others beamed with joy describing close encounters with the “Mighty Milers” of Wilson Elementary, who ran through the auditorium shouting their enthusiasm.

Ron Boren, a sixth-grade teacher at Tuolumne Elementary, and his students and their “Aunt Sally” had the Foster Family Theater rocking to a song about PEMDAS. How anyone turns a process for solving mathematical equations into a sing-and-shout number is as astounding as it was entertaining.

There were videos about law enforcement walking young kids to school through tough neighborhoods; mentoring classes through Sierra Vista; classes for parents in a “café” setting; and a “pathway” at Johansen that leads students into careers in digital film, game design and video arts. What would any show be without zombies – a group of Forensics/Biotech students from Enochs High.

Panelists stepped into the spotlight for discussions about taking motivated high school students and turning them into well-paid employees at E.&J. Gallo Winery upon graduation. Another panel described the United Patterson program that inspires every student to make a commitment to continuing his or her education.

More tears as Davis High Language Institute students – some refugees – spoke of their joy and pride in being in America and how speaking our language gives them hope of fulfilling their dreams.

Finally, Modesto’s Ninja Poet, Sam Pierstorff, closed the show rapping with his “A Cup of Hope,” in which he described children “who do not simply reach for the stars, but instead rip them straight out of the sky.”

We partnered on this night with the Stanislaus Community Foundation, an organization that not only sees the best in our communities but sees how to make our communities better. The dedication of Marian Kaanon, Jessica Chang Irish and Amanda Hughes was both inspiring and motivating. We knew bringing such moments to Modesto would be fun; we did not expect to be so impressed, excited and moved by the students and those who dedicate their lives to them.

How thrilling it was to see almost every seat filled with people from all parts of our community – proud parents; just-as-proud school administrators; teachers; elected leaders; and hundreds of Bee readers. They came to help us celebrate. And celebrate we did.