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Inspiration For "Lean On Me" To Speak At Hudson Valley

CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Tuesday, February 18, 2003

On Monday, March 10, Hudson Valley Community College's Student Senate and Student Life Committee will host renowned and controversial educator, activist and motivational speaker Joe Clark. The subject of the 1986 movie "Lean On Me," Clark will speak at 1 p.m. in the auditorium of Hudson Valley's Bulmer Telecommunications Center.

Part of Hudson Valley's Student Leadership Day, the event is free and open to the public.

"Joe Clark sees education as a mission," said Paul Culpepper, president of the Student Senate at Hudson Valley. "In 1984, when he took over as principal of New Jersey's Eastside High School, he turned a notoriously tough school around by challenging students to develop habits for success and confronting them when they failed to reform. He didn't tolerate fighting vandalism, drugs, profanity or abuse of teachers. It was tough love. In fact, in one day during his first week, he expelled 300 students."

"If there is no discipline, there is anarchy," Clark said. "Good citizenship demands attention to responsibilities as well as rights."

The baseball bat- and bullhorn-wielding disciplinarian turned Eastside High into a place where learning was the focus. Two years into his seven-year stint, New Jersey's governor proclaimed Eastside a model school. Clark was subsequently featured on the cover of Time Magazine and he was twice profiled by television's 60 Minutes.

His success also provided the foundation for "Lean On Me," in which two-time Oscar Award-nominee Morgan Freeman portrayed Clark. The author of the book "Laying Down the Law," Clark currently serves as director of the Essex County Detention facility. He also travels the nation, sharing his strategies and success stories.

"Every day, pride in self and school must be reinforced," Clark said. "Every day, the value of academics must be demonstrated."

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 50 degree and certification programs in four academic divisions: Liberal Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Business; as well as programs run through the Educational Opportunity Center offering certification programs in workforce and academic preparation. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students, and it is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining. Hudson Valley has graduated more than 55,000 students.