Rock star Joan Jett inspires at-risk students

1:03 PM, May 24, 2011   |    comments
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Joan Jett

NBC - Need a way to get students to listen at school? How about inviting a rock star?

That's exactly what happened at Scriber Lake Alternative High School in Edmonds, Washington. The school, which enrolls students who are at risk of dropping out or have learning disabilities, hosted Joan Jett Monday afternoon.

Jett, 53, is legendary rock star who formed the band "The Runaways" as a teenager in 1970s in Los Angeles. She overcame adversity and became one of the first female rock and roll artists, but after making it big with hits like "I Love Rock and Roll" and "Cherry Bomb," she decided to go back to school and get her GED.

"I said, 'This person has a vision that I want my kids to see,'" said Gary Lange, English teacher at Scriber Lake.

On a chance, Lange sent emails to Jett's longtime manager Kenny Laguna. To Lange's surprise, he got a response, and then confirmation that Jett wanted to visit the school.

"I thought, 'You've got to be kidding!'" said Lange. "We are a little high school in Washington state and you are going to take me up on my request!?"

Jett spoke to the student body of about 200 teens in the school's gymnasium. Her visit lasted about an hour, first starting with a brief background of how she started, then trailing into a question and answer from the students.

"People really expected me to tow the line as a girl," said Jett, wearing all black and gripping the microphone like a rock star. "They said, 'Dress like a girl, act like a girl.' But you know what? I did what I wanted to do. And I loved it."

Jett worked the crowd, often times asking students to speak up because she called herself a "deaf rock star." She also gave out hugs on request and accepted student's artwork drawn especially for her.

"You see this," she said holding up a drawing. "He loves art, he loves to draw. There are a million things he can do with that. So do it."

Her visit was a hit with students.

"I just want to be who I want to be, that's honestly what I took away from it," says Melissa Aune Meyer, a senior. "If she can do it, I can do it."

Afterward, Laguna said Jett has turned down major appearances on "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars," but she chose to visit Scriber Lake.

"I know that things I would say could have a big impact so I took it really seriously," said Jett. "I was actually really nervous."

NBC

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