Middle-schooler triumphs over behavior issues

July 29, 2019
It was not long ago that Manny Moreno spent nearly every day at Walker Junior High in the principal’s office. “I don’t think there was a day that went by that he and I didn’t have a conversation,” said Principal Jennifer Brown at Walker Junior High School. “He couldn’t make it through the day without being angry at someone or something. Everything seemed to set him off.”  There was a reason for that anger. Manny grew up without his biological father, who spent extended time in and out of prison. “He kind of had it rough,” Manny’s mother Aurora Godoy said. “I think that the odds were against him from the beginning. It’s always been a struggle. How do you tell your kid that they’re special or they’re important when everyone else is pushing him aside?” Teachers described the old Manny as volatile and scary. He often used his father to excuse his violent behavior. “He threw a chair at a principal at an elementary school he was going to in Anaheim,” Godoy said. “And he said, ‘What do you want me to do? I’m my dad’s son. What do you expect me to be? What do you expect me to do? His blood is in me.’ I was in tears and I told him, ‘You are not your father’s son. You are my son. I am your mother. I am your father. I’m your world. You’re my world.’” In seventh grade, Manny had more discipline incidents than any student at Walker Junior High. But Principal Brown never lost hope. “You always have to see the whole student because if you try to just treat the behavior, then you’re never going to make a change,” Brown said. “I knew that his anger wasn’t really with me. He was just an angry young man. We couldn’t just be angry at him as well. And so we kept doing everything we could. One support after another. And saying, ‘How much love can we give him?’” Manny was placed on a modified schedule during his seventh grade year at Walker Junior High because he could not control his behavior. Teachers feared what might be in store for eighth grade given the frequent outbursts. “I didn’t know what to do,” Walker Junior High teacher Austin Fullmer said. “I didn’t know if he was going to be more emboldened and more of what he had shown. Or if he was going to have matured. So I had a lot of anxiety just specifically because of Manny.” But by the time Manny stepped foot on campus in the fall as an eighth grader, he was a completely different student. Over the summer, he joined the Anaheim Rams, a Pop Warner football team. He says football made all the difference. “In Pop Warner, they check your grades and if your grades weren’t good, they wouldn’t let you play,” Manny said. “If your behavior wasn’t good, they wouldn’t let you play either.” Fullmer said the sudden change surprised everyone at the school. “It was just a complete 180,” Fullmer said. “I’m getting emails from his teachers who knew him or had heard of him from last year saying this kid is incredible. He’s great. He’s helpful. He’s working hard.” The young man who once could not make it through the day without an issue is now the model student. He even landed on the honor roll the first quarter of his eighth grade year. “If I could have a Manny all the time, my job would just be the best job in the whole wide world,” Brown said. “I would just say, ‘You don’t even need to pay me. This is all I need to do for the rest of my life.’ ... He made my year.”
Middle school student Manny Moreno’s behavior issues made him a frequent visitor to the principal’s office. But his teachers and his principal never gave up on him. After participating in a football program, Manny came back to eighth grade as a model student, even landing on the honor roll.

© 2019 Association of California School Administrators