Salome Thomas-EL, award-winning educator and the highly-praised author of I Choose to Stay, has helped hundreds of troubled children get into magnet high schools, major colleges, and universities. Yet he still finds himself devastated by the long-ago death of a promising student named Willow Briggs. Salome worked with and consistently encouraged this troubled boy, who ultimately became one of the school’s top chess players and students. But when Willow moved on to high school, he found no real positive influences. He struggled academically and was murdered on a street corner at the age of sixteen. More than any other factor, Willow’s death launched Salome Thomas-EL on his mission to be a positive influence, and to encourage all of us to set the best example possible for the young people in our lives.
The Immortality of Influence is a refreshing, common-sense roadmap to helping kids achieve their dreams in which Thomas-EL movingly describes the methods he has used to help his students succeed. It all started in Vaux Middle School, where he began a chess club to teach boys and girls how to think critically and resolve conflicts with their minds instead of their fists. Not only did his students win eight national championships and become local heroes, they also scored high on the SATs and got into top colleges. When Thomas-EL found himself faced with kids who didn’t exercise or eat well, he started a summer program in which the students walked to museums and other cultural events around the city. Recognizing the importance of exposing kids to the world outside their own neighborhoods, he took fifteen African-American students to rural Vermont, where they interacted with white children their age and discovered how much they had in common. All of these students were later accepted to the best magnet high schools. These are just a few examples of what can happen when kids are mentored in a positive way—not only at home, but in the community at large.
For parents, guardians, educators—anyone who wants the best for kids, this book is an essential, inspirational reference. It’s all about making a difference—not just for today, but forever. Sometimes, it only takes one special person to set a child on the right path, but more often, it does indeed take a village. The Immortality of Influence will inspire you to band together with other caring adults and start making a difference—now.
Salome Thomas-EL has been a teacher and administrator in the Philadelphia School District since 1987. He has received the Marcus A. Foster Award as the outstanding school district administrator in Philadelphia as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished Martin Luther King Award. Thomas-EL frequently appears on C-SPAN, CNN, and NPR Radio. His first book, I Choose to Stay, has been optioned by Disney Films. Learn more about Salome and his students at www.ichoosetostay.com.
Cecil Murphey is the writer, co-writer, or ghostwriter of more than 100 books, including Salome Thomas-EL’s I Choose to Stay; Gifted Hands, the award-winning biography of Dr. Ben Carson; and 90 Minutes in Heaven. He received the Gold Medallion award for Rebel with a Cause, the autobiography of Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. He has twice won the Silver Angel Award for Excellence in Media.
Praise for Salome Thomas-EL and I Choose to Stay
“Intensely moving...The redemptive power of a teacher’s love shines through these pages with prophetic grace.”—Jonathan Kozol
“Teaching is a calling, and Thomas-EL has enthusiastically answered the call.” —Publishers Weekly
“A powerful story about what an inspirational teacher can do to open new horizons for economically disadvantaged young people.” —William H. Gray, III, President, United Negro College Fund
“One cool teacher makes all the right moves and turns his kids into champions.” —Reader’s Digest
“Thomas-EL’s personal devotion to his pupils and creativity in developing programs to engage and educate them is truly inspiring…[a] fine account.”—Booklist
“This book shows how one dedicated educator who believes in the potential of all our kids can make a huge difference and how, under the proper circumstances, urban education can work.” —Edward G. Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania
“Salome has touched many people and will affect many more in generations to come.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California
“Thomas-EL affirms what many educators already know and believe: Underprivileged students can do great things when they have a community of adults who firmly care and believe in them…an uplifting read, one that would uplift and rejuvenate the most battle-worn teacher.”—NEA Today