Will Smith Applauds Educator Who Wins 'Best Philadelphian' Award

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Will Smith, star of the hit new movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, praises Principal, Teacher and Chess Coach Salome Thomas-EL, for answering the call to serve young people in his foreword to Thomas-EL’s new book, The Immortality of Influence.

If you are not inspired to make a change in your community after reading this book, then you should read it again.

Will Smith, star of the hit new movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, praises Principal, Teacher and Chess Coach Salome Thomas-EL, for answering the call to serve young people in his foreword to Thomas-EL’s new book, The Immortality of Influence (Kensington – May 2006). Salome Thomas-EL, winner of Philadelphia Magazine’s 2006 Best Philadelphian Award, has helped hundreds of troubled children get into major high schools and universities. Yet, he stills finds himself devastated by the long-ago death of a promising young student named Willow Briggs. Thomas-EL worked with and encouraged the struggling boy, who ultimately became a top chess player and student. When he moved on to high school, he found no real positive influences and was murdered on a street corner at sixteen. 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. Over 400 people have been murdered in Philadelphia this year, many of them young black males.

Salome Thomas-EL is also author of, I Choose To Stay (Kensington – March 2003), a best-seller written by the award winning teacher, mentor and father. His work has garnered the attention of Walt Disney Pictures, which has agreed to distribute a movie based on Thomas-EL’s life story. A humble yet dedicated educator, he revived the chess team of an inner-city Philadelphia middle school and led them to victory at the national championships. Thomas-EL is encouraged by Will Smith’s initial reaction to the movie project. Smith, a native of Philadelphia and a promising chess player, welcomed reading the script written by Don Scott (Barbershop movies). The Disney movie will be produced and directed by brothers Greg and Gavin O’Connor, at Solaris Entertainment. They were most recently teamed together with Disney for the hit, ‘Miracle,’ an inspirational movie about the 1980 Gold Medal winning USA Olympic Hockey team.

Thomas-EL frequently appears on the Fox News Channel, CNN, C-Span and NPR Radio. He has received the Marcus A. Foster Award as an outstanding school administrator and the University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Luther King Award. To highlight the importance of education and influence, Salome Thomas-EL has recently delivered keynote addresses at state conventions in Florida, New York, Texas, Minnesota and Ohio. Regarding Thomas-EL’s inspirational book, The Immortality of Influence, Will Smith states, “If you are not inspired to make a change in your community after reading this book, then you should read it again.”

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Shawnna Thomas-el
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