October 29, 2009
Posted: 02:36 PM ET
World champion fighter and Olympic gold medalist, Oscar de la Hoya, cut the ribbon on a brand new building for his Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter School in East Los Angeles this morning. De la Hoya, who has donated millions of dollars to open the school, answered our "5 Questions" about education, motivation and giving kids a 'fighting' chance...
5 Questions for Oscar de la Hoya:
LKL Blog: You've donated millions of dollars of your own money to create and build this school. Why was it so important to you to see this school opened?
Oscar de la Hoya: Well, it's all about opportunity for the kids. Ever since my mother passed away from breast cancer in 1991, her dying wishes were that the more you receive, the more you give back. So whatever I can do to help out in, first off, my community & in my country, I'm going to do whatever it takes. And this opportunity presented itself and it was a no-brainer for me because all we're doing is giving these kids the opportunity.
LKL Blog: What are the challenges facing kids today – not only in East Los Angeles, where this school is, but in other parts of the country?
Oscar de la Hoya: I think the challenges are them feeling that people don’t care, that people are not paying attention. What we've done here at the Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School is that we've made sure that the parents are involved. We've made sure that the teachers care about the students, they pay attention, they treat the students as if they were their own kids. We make sure that we devote our time & give them the necessary time to succeed. All the kids want is someone to care. Someone to care, someone to feel they care & someone to pay attention to them.
LKL Blog: What was school like for you? You grew up in East Los Angeles and have said it's important to keep a positive attitude and focus on your goals. What motivated you to do that?
Oscar de la Hoya: Well I went to Garfield High School which was a very difficult neighborhood to grow up in which was in East Los Angeles. It was overcrowded, kids obviously wanted to learn but we didn't have too many passionate teachers who wanted to teach us. It was very difficult. Very difficult but I've always maintained my focus. I've always been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think the most important thing today is that kids have to keep a positive attitude, the feeling of never giving up. Yes, life is a struggle. Life is difficult. And to reach your goals can take a very long time but the ultimate message here is to never give up.
LKL Blog: Was there a teacher or a person who you looked up to? Who was that? How did they change you?
Oscar de la Hoya: My government teacher in High School, Mr. Benson, who I owe everything to because there were times when I had difficult moments in my life where I did want to drop out of school, or I didn't care, or I wasn't paying attention to my grades. And Mr. Benson cared about me. He cared about what I did with my life; he cared about my future. He spent time with me during the class teaching me & telling me and just feeling that energy from him that he did care of what I became, really changed my life. That's what kids want today: people who care; teachers who really take their time to make sure that the students are going to be well off.
LKL Blog: The Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School, which is celebrating the grand opening of its new facility this week, has been ranked #53 in the nation by US News – what do you attribute that success to? What is the school doing differently?
Oscar de la Hoya: I believe that it's the devotion, the passion and also the fact that the parents have to be involved. They have no choice but to be involved with the education of their kids. One thing that the Green Dot Schools do, including my school, is that parents have to sign contracts and donate several hours a year to be with their kids and teach them and donate their time. And I believe the fact that it's a school in Los Angeles and it's a school named after my name makes the kids feel proud. They feel proud that they're representing a champion, a champion in boxing. I believe it's a school becoming where yes, I became a champion in boxing but the students have an opportunity to become a champion in life. So they really want to succeed and make me proud, and make the school proud, and ultimately make their city proud, and eventually making their country proud. That's one of the reasons why I feel this school has been very successful.
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