GHS alum pushes students to follow dreams
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 23, 2008 2:00 AM
Poncho Hondges, left, a former Goldsboro High School basketball player who briefly played with the L.A. Lakers and now an actor on TV and movies, talks with GHS students LaFonda Bruinton, center, and Bayonni Handy after speaking at an assembly on the importance of reading and education.
By PHYLLIS MOORE
News-Argus Staff Writer
A former Goldsboro High School student who briefly played for the L.A. Lakers and now makes his living as a Hollywood actor returned to his alma mater Thursday to encourage students to get an education and pursue their own dreams.
Derrel "Poncho" Hodges moved to Goldsboro -- his mother and grandmother's hometown -- in his junior year.
Introduced by Antoinette Reed, who graduated a year before him, the 6-foot 9-inch former basketball star was a part of the Class of 1989.
"I'm a former Goldsboro High School Cougar myself, I'm proud to say," he told his audience. "I have lots of roots here."
Following a brief video montage of Hodges' movie and TV credits -- which include appearances on "Law and Order" and "The Game," as well as the film "License to Wed" -- he talked about his brief three-month stint with the L.A. Lakers before being cut and becoming a world traveler, playing basketball in Turkey, Japan, China and France.
It's something, he said, though, that would not have been possible without getting good grades and an education.
"You have to be able to read," he said, whether for enjoyment or one's livelihood, like reading scripts.
He spoke to the crowd with ease, telling them he had no desire to share some lofty message that would be condescending.
"I just wanted to talk to you like I would talk to you on the street," he said.
Hodges reminded students that they are the future, so the desire to read and complete school work is a vital piece of the puzzle.
"You have to make the change for the upcoming generation," he said. "You have to set the standard now. You have to concentrate and do well in school. However you do in school is how your kids will (one day) benefit."
The key, he advised, is staying on task.
"Focus is a big word. Stay focused on your dream. Whatever dream you have, just stay focused," he said. "Put yourself in the right position to succeed. ... Go out and make people from Goldsboro proud."
Hodges' appearance was part of the school's celebration for the completion of the first nine weeks' 25 Books One Million Words Campaign.
Goldsboro is an America's Choice school, and the campaign is part of that, said Jocelyn Whysall, media coordinator.
"As an America's Choice school, we ask that our students read 25 books during the school year, which is about one million words," she said. "Research shows that if you read at least a million words a year, you will enhance your vocabulary reading skills and comprehension skills."
Principal Patricia Burden called the assembly an opportunity to recognize students who are actively participating in the 25 Book Campaign, and hopefully to inspire others to join them.
"We give you 15 minutes each day to allow you time at school to just read," she told the audience, explaining that could include books, magazines and newspapers.
And it seems to be working, Ms. Whysall said. The effort might have gotten off to a slow start last year, but this fall she has seen an increase in students visiting the school's library and checking out books.
In fact, Ms. Burden announced, at least five students have already read the equivalent of 25 books or more. Several others have read 15 or more.
Those students were recognized at the conclusion of Thursday's assembly, along with students with honor roll status and perfect attendance.
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