STOCKTON (CBS13) — Stagg High School students were surprised Friday by Stockton native Jason Lee and actress Tiffany Haddish as part of a school-wide assembly to remind the students they are not grieving alone and their voices are heard just weeks after a student was killed on campus.
Approximately 1,400 students sat in the high school's football stadium to hear Lee and Haddish share words of wisdom, advice, and stories about their careers, they said, that were accomplished through adversity in their youth.
Lee, a Stagg High School alumni, known for Love and Hip Hop and Hollywood Unlocked, shared his personal journey out of Stockton and into Hollywood with the students, who sat where he once did. As detailed in his memoir, "God Must Have Forgotten About Me," the Stockton native shared he grew up on the streets of Stockton. His mother was addicted to drugs and his father was absent. He entered the foster care system where he said he was molested and abused.
Friday, he reiterated how much the city of Stockton means to him, even though in the same city he witnessed his brother's murder. He used the personal experiences to remind the students that although they may experience grief again in life, or trauma, they, too can heal.
"I've been through that on both sides," he said. I just pray that every single one of you understands, you life matters," said Lee.
The assembly comes less than a month since 15-year-old Alycia Reynaga was stabbed and killed on the Stagg High School campus in what the San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar called a "seemingly random act of violence."
"You don't know that this death didn't affect you," said Lee on Friday, as he encouraged students to find outlets to channel their emotions, creatively.
Haddish, who said she has experienced her own personal losses as a young person, shared her advice with the students and brought some levity to a campus that is still grieving Reynaga's death.
"Make your time mean something, do something amazing with it, you don't know how long you got," said Haddish.
Haddish, a highlight for students who cheered and were to direct questions to her when microphones were open for students to share, expressed that she was not in attendance to "be funny" because the subject matter was serious. She said she didn't feel funny, but instead, was in Stockton to offer hope, guidance, and support to the young adults who experienced trauma, whether they were close to Reynaga or not, due to the public nature and randomness of the crime.
"One of your classmates is gone, this is not funny. And it could've been you. It could've been any one of y'all..." said Haddish, visibly emotional at the end of the assembly, with one last message to students.
Reynaga's parents were in attendance at the event but did not speak. Lee shared highlights from a private conversation he had with Reynaga's father before the event. He shared that he supported the family and Reynaga's legacy. Lee added he plans to set up a scholarship in Reynaga's honor, as well as work to enact change in her memory.
Students were given the opportunity to ask questions in an open-mic session, that Lee said should be focused on ways to improve the campus community and the city of Stockton. The first question was asked by a student who was focused on school security and was met with cheers from peers in the audience. The student wanted advice on holding leaders accountable for changes that, she believed, were not quick to act on security concerns even before Reynaga's death.
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