Don't let the name fool you..because that's exactly what it to me.
When I arrived to my teacher conference day this morning, along with the rest of the RISD employees, I was expecting an older, unattractive, man who was said to be a "good speaker". I thought..ok, whatever..he better be good if I have to sit and listen to him all morning long! The only thing that I can say after listening to Stanley Lenone for over 2 and a half hours this morning, is that I would have sat and listened to him all day long if they would have let me. The expectations I had of this man were lifetimes away from what he actually turned out to be. I don't think I can do Stanley justice with my own words, so I'll let this article I found online do it for me. It wasn't written about Rockwall, but his story is the same. PLEASE continue reading and then follow the directions for how to view a short clip to see Stanley. (They didn't have one on YouTube, so I tried to find the best one I could!)
From Drug Dealer To All-American Scholar
Thursday, 08 March 2007
RIVERSIDEBy Chris Levister
How does a white, former drug dealing street thug relate to a room full of mostly Black and Latino teens on probation or expelled from Riverside County schools? It's a question all-American scholar Stanley Leone, Jr. hears hundreds of times.
"Pain has no ethnicity. Pain sees no color," he says. Leone a motivational speaker from the Texas based Flippen Leadership Group has shared his life story of tragedy and triumph with ten of thousands of people.
On the campus of Arlington Regional Learning Center he enters a standing room only gathering of students and educators wearing a yellow shirt.
"A white guy in a yellow shirt, right away you can see the skepticism on their faces," admits Leone, "How tough can he be?" That skepticism fades quickly when he dims the lights and transforms himself into a menacing looking tattooed thug dressed in a knit cap and black sleeveless tee. Within seconds he lures listeners into a riveting snapshot of his childhood, a life of poverty, homelessness, drugs, violence, and sexual abuse.
"I'm five years old. I'm watching my father hold a shotgun in my mom's face." Leone paces the floor, his breathing is labored. "If I cried my father would beat me."
"Another night I wake up. A man is on top of me. The next morning he was laughing and joking with him my momma as if nothing happened. She made me swear not to tell anyone. I pushed the pain down."
"My mom did the best she could. We went from living in a trailer park to sleeping in a car, except there was no sleeping. You stayed awake to protect the family. I hated my father. I refused to take his name Stanley. I insisted people call me JR."
By age 13 Stanley Leone was a hardcore gun toting veteran of violence, drugs and incarcerations. By high school he was a fearless gang leader, drug dealer and street thug charged with felony assault. "I remember the police came to my school handcuffed me and took me to jail. Beneath my bad boy talk, I was hurting. I was insecure and scared."
"The boys I hung out with would say ‘yo dog I'll die for you'. In reality they weren't dying for me they were dying with me."
Leone told listeners football kept him from sliding deeper into a life of anger, pain and self sabotage. "I would play football to mask the pain." In his senior year Leone met Monda Simmons who taught the Flippen Group's Teen Leadership class at his school.
"She was a small lady. I tried to dog her. But she wasn't having it. She looked up at me and said ‘beneath your thuggish ways, son I see a champion', when she said that I started crying like a baby. She saw what I'd been hiding all those years."
Leone told teachers and administers, "you do make a difference in children's lives." He credits Simmons with helping him turn his life of tragedy and violence into a message of inspiration and hope.
"I can honestly say if it were not for Monda Simmons and the Flippen program I would be in jail or dead."
Stanley not only completed high school with a 4.0 average but went on to graduate magna cum laude from St. Xavier University in Chicago.
"That's my story. Each one of you has a story. You don't have to be a football all-star to be a winner. But you've got to be serious about changing your destructive ways. It's hard work. In this very room there's a Monda Simmons waiting to help you. But man, you've got to want to change," said Leone."
"He scared me," said David who was expelled for using drugs. "He was a pretty scary homeboy -- kinda like me."
Tonya expelled for fighting called Leone's story ‘amazing'. "He brought tears to my eyes. He said we got to fight with our minds. Not with hate, guns, knives and fists. That's deep."
"Life changing, rejuvenating, I wish all of our teachers and students could have seen and heard Leone's remarkable turnaround story," said Learning Center principal Tony Johnson. "His powerful message lets kids know they really can turn their lives around. We're here to help them accomplish that."
"I see Stanley Leone in every child," says the man who mentored him, Texas psychologist Flip Flippen founder and president of the Flippen Group. Flippen's award winning achievement program Capturing Kid's Hearts is in 22 Riverside County elementary and secondary schools.
Please go HERE and watch this short clip! It says: WPTV News story about Stanley Leone's presentation to the faculty and staff of Palm Beach Country School District. It's the second to last "In the news, videos". You have to watch this and see him to truly understand. I wish EVERY person and teacher could have been there today. It would have changed your life..like it did mine.