SALISBURY — Students and staff at Prince Street Elementary School (PSES) were blindsided Monday by the announcement that Baltimore Ravens’ offensive tackle Michael Oher will be visiting their school on Feb. 10.
“It’s a secret we’ve had quite a few months,” said Assistant Principal Jason Miller.
PSES staff and Wicomico Board of Education (BoE) members dropped several hints during the morning assembly. When it became clear that Oher would be the special guest, the room erupted in cheers.
School officials chose Oher not just because he is an athlete, but because of the personal obstacles he’s overcome in his life to be successful.
“No matter where you start from, it’s where you finish,” said Miller.
Miller revealed that the entire school, including the staff, has been reading Oher’s autobiography, “I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond.”
“You will find that this book is hard to put down,” said Miller. “It’s one of the most heart wrenching books I have read in my life. As you read it, it will strengthen your understanding of the challenging communities where children are being raised today, including some of those communities in our own backyard.”
The story, which was explored partially in the 2009 movie The Blind Side, has left an impression on many of the students that have read it.
“The book is, to me, that you can do anything in life,” said fifth-grader Zion Rivera.
Skylar Jones, a classmate of Rivera’s, took the book’s message about family to heart.
“I think it means that you should love your family no matter what,” she said.
In-and-out of foster care over the course of his childhood, Oher even spent a period of his youth homeless. Despite all of that, he persevered and after high school received a scholarship to play football with the University of Mississippi. Eventually, Oher was signed into the NFL to play for the Baltimore Ravens. He was the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2009 draft.
“We’re thrilled to have Michael Oher coming to Prince Street,” said Miller. “We’re also excited that Prince Street is going to be able to open up this experience to the community, so that many more people will have the chance to learn about a successful NFL player who overcame tremendous odds to escape poverty and lack of a stable home.”
Fifth grade teacher Kristen McKim noted that Oher’s story is popular with students because of his athletics.
“Obviously, because he’s a football player it draws them in,” she said.
But McKim added that once children learn about everything Oher went through, from troubles with his biological parents to difficulty in school, they are able to relate with his story on a personal level.
Board of Education President Ron Willey and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Fredrickson were on-hand Monday for the announcement and both praised PSES for featuring a role-model who not only represents athletic success, but one who had to work hard academically to achieve and maintain a scholarship as well.
“The message is so clear, that you can be what you set your goals to be,” Willey said. “I congratulate Prince Street School for providing this program for students.”
Oher will arrive at PSES 11 a.m. on Feb. 10 and will sign copies of his book until 1, at which time there will be a shared assembly at PSES with sixth-graders from Salisbury Middle and fourth- and fifth- graders from Pinehurst Elementary. After meeting students, Oher will return to PSES at 7 p.m. for an open public event.
Tickets to the event are free and 1,200 will be distributed. The first 500 will have auditorium seating while the remainder will be able to watch the event from a live feed connected to classrooms at the school. Tickets will be available from 9 a.m.-noon on Feb. 4. Email [email protected] for more information.