BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
LAYTON – With art and music, dance and athletics, Davis County students embraced cultural and individual diversity during last Wednesday’s Parent Equity Night sponsored by Davis School District and Utah State University’s GEAR UP.
Participants were treated to Native American dances and performances by Latinos in Action, got a close-up look at a mural inspired by southwestern rock art and heard from Davis School District leaders about finding their unique potential.
Sebastian Velasquez, a professional soccer player for Real Salt Lake, anchored the evening with an address encouraging students to stay in school.
“I’m going to talk to you as if you’re my little brothers and sisters,” he said. “I know what it is to suffer and sacrifice. There are easier ways to go.”
Now 22, Velasquez said he was a junior in high school when he accepted an invitation to go to Barcelona and train with youth soccer teams.
But the opportunity meant quitting school his junior year in high school. When he didn’t get accepted to play in Europe, he came home to “absolutely nothing,” he said.
The Columbian-born soccer player began work washing dishes in a restaurant, but because playing professional soccer had been a goal his entire life, he found a way to get back to it by playing at a community college in South Carolina.
To be accepted required a GED, and after he earned that, he played two years at Spartanburg Methodist College, where he scored 55 goals and added 33 assists in 33 games.
That got the attention of Real, who selected him in the second round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
“Now, I’m living the dream,” he said.
“I had to struggle through to be a professional,” said Velasquez. “The thing I realize is that it was an education that got me to where I am.
“This applies to you guys,” he continued. “You have to be in school. There are amazing people around you ... Take full advantage of it.”
Others on the program included Davis School District Superintendent Bryan Bowles, who talked to the students gathered at Northridge High about finding their own unique avenues to success.
He quoted John Fischer, once a superintendent of schools in Baltimore, who said: “The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different Р to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses.”
John Haugland, a third-grade student from Mountain View Elementary, gave a dramatic presentation asking teachers to believe in students and students to believe in themselves.
“Do you believe that what you’re doing is shaping not just my generation but my children and my children’s children?” he asked teachers and principals. “We need you to know that what you’re doing is the most important job in the state today. If you don’t lead well, I’m not going there,” he said to cheers. “Do you believe in me?”
The second annual Parent Equity Night is one of many efforts by the Davis School District’s Educational Equity and Community Outreach Department overseen by director Jackie Thompson.
The department organizes outreach programs such as assemblies and clubs, works to address bullying, and holds an annual Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest.