“But still, like air, I’ll rise” Maya Angelo

Denote Bridges was virtually unknown outside of his niche in Atlanta, Georgia.  That is, until he was the first black valedictorian chosen in his high school.  Having overcome extreme adversity, such as being robbed at gun point, the young death of his brother, and his mother recently being diagnosed with leukemia, the 18-year-old demonstrates that you are never too young to have the courage, maturity and resiliency to rise above the challenges which you have been given. 

Bridges’ offers a relatable and awe-inspiring speech to adolescents his own age.  Teenagers often have great appreciation for those that they can relate themselves to, thus increasing their personal investment into the discussion.  Incorporate Bridges’ by presenting his speech to you class and allow for an open discussion about his views on current issues plaguing high schools all over the nation: violence, education, higher education, drugs and popularity.  It is important to have a secure and comfortable environment with your students, offering them the chance to share their honest views while still maintaining the appropriateness and higher level of thinking called for in a high school classroom.

Denote Bridges falls back onto a single phrase that accurately demonstrates the control that he does have on his life: “Still, I rise”… Despite what hurdles you are challenged with, it is within your control to choose how to respond to it. Provide students a handout and have them write the challenges they have faced and how they have risen above it.  Encourage them to reflect upon what helped them face such adversity.  For a more poetic approach, give students a sheet with “I rise” at the beginning of each line.  Have students complete the sentences and come back together to give them the opportunity to present their struggles in the form of a rap, song, poem or alternative interpretation.

 Bridges notes that “my family and my desire to make a difference” (ESSENCE, 2010) was what motivated him in school. A full interview with Bridges can be found at http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/life/valedictorian-deonte-bridges-overcomes-adversity-2073351.

To further integrate Bridges’ message into your classroom, have students create their own purposeful and insightful interview questions for Bridges.  Bridges himself can be contacted through his Facebook page or Twitter account with careful teacher supervision: http://twitter.com/theRealDeonteB

Deonte Bridges is surrounded by some of the many trophies he has earned for his scholastic achievement. Bridges has overcome many obstacles on his path to academic success.

What obstacle have you had to overcome to excel in something you are passionate about?

Have these adversities helped you in the end?  What have you learned from these lessons that will help you in future endeavors?

“Continue to strive for excellence. Do not settle for less. Be thankful for what you have and remain humble. Anything is possible with hard work, determination, and patience”

Denote Bridges


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