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Wooden to Honor Most Inspiring Students

Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and Los Angeles newscaster Frank Mottek will join 700 guests Thursday, April 22 at the Long Beach Hilton to honor 96 deserving students--the most inspiring student from each school in the Long Beach Unified School District. The Wizard of Westwood, a renowned character builder and bestselling author at age 93, will be the keynote speaker at the Eighth Annual Long Beach Education Foundation Most Inspiring Student Awards Dinner. Wooden’s unmatched record of collegiate basketball triumphs, winning 10 NCAA championships, four full undefeated seasons and 88 consecutive game victories at UCLA, makes him by far the greatest college basketball coach of all time and arguably the finest coach in the history of sports. Considering himself a teacher first and foremost, he has taught thousands of young pupils and players his Pyramid of Success. He recently wrote a new children’s book entitled Inch and Miles that conveys his deep personal commitment to character building. The theme for this year’s event is "The Lion King." Millikan High School students will open with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" and perform selections from the popular musical that tell of overcoming challenges to achieve greatness. A student from every school in the district will be honored for inspiring others by beating the odds. Each of the students’ heartwarming stories exemplifies one of the cornerstones of Wooden’s pyramid, including hard work, friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. "These students are real heroes," said Mike Murray, president of the Long Beach Education Foundation’s Board of Directors. Joining Murray at the mike will be Frank Mottek, award-winning newscaster for KNX Radio and KTLA, Channel 5, who will serve as master of ceremonies. Costumed members of the Lion King cast will welcome and honor each inspiring student from all elementary, middle and high schools in the Long Beach Unified School District. The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce will receive the Superintendent of Schools Community Service Award at the event. Ticket reservations may be made with the Long Beach Education Foundation at 997-8111. The donation is $100. A private reception with Coach Wooden will be held for table sponsors at 4 p.m. Dinner check-in is at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. The event is expected to be sold out. "John Wooden’s memorable sayings are quoted often by thousands of teachers and coaches today," said Murray. "He makes you want to be a better person." Here are some of Wooden’s words of wisdom: • "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." • "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." • "Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there." Wooden first learned to play basketball in 1918 when he was eight years old--only 27 years after the invention of basketball. With a pair of his mother’s stockings stuffed with rags as a ball, he would shoot at a wooden tomato basket.