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President Carter visits Panorama City school

Yessenia Diaz hadn't been born when Jimmy Carter became the 39th president of the United States.

But that didn't dampen her enthusiasm when the former president visited St. Genevieve High School on Monday.

Yessenia and 1,200 other students, family members and faculty stood and cheered when Carter walked into the gym, where he spent half an hour speaking, taking questions and nurturing an unlikely relationship stretching across 3,000 miles to Plains, Ga.

"I feel really fortunate and empowered to be able to see the president," Yessenia, 15, said after Carter was ushered out to the school choir's rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia."

"He's a big influence," she said. "Everything he stands for, like peace and helping the homeless, I'm all about that. This is something I'll always remember."

It was also an event that Carter said he'd always remember, telling the students they attend the best high school in America.

"I love the partnership we've formed between the people of my community in Plains and the community of this school," Carter said. "It's one of the highlights of my life to be here with you."

The unlikely relationship with Carter began about five years ago after Principal Daniel Horn and a group of students traveled to Atlanta for a conference on character education and then decided to visit Plains to hear the former president speak.
A group of students and teachers filmed a documentary about Carter and his presidency in 2006; and a few years later, the school performed a production of “Singing in the Rain” at the Plains High School auditorium that was attended by Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
Carter has lauded the school’s academic achievements and its innovative curriculum that stresses character development and described the school’s choir as one of the best he’s ever heard.
Last year, he singled out the school’s dance teams and choir to perform at his 85th birthday party held at the Rylander Theatre in Americus, Ga. When the school learned he’d be visiting Los Angeles on a tour to promote his new book, “White House Diary,” Horn prevailed on the former president  to drop by the campus. 

Carter was visibly touched at the choir's rendition of "Prayer of St. Francis" and locked arms and swayed when the school's seniors surrounded him in a circle and offered prayers.

Horn said students were fortunate and grateful to meet a historical figure who helped shape the world.

"For our kids to meet someone like him goes a lot further than reading about him in a history book," Horn said.

-- Carla Rivera

Photo: Jimmy Carter shakes the hand of Justin Zavala, 4, as his mother, Maria Zavala, holds the child during the former president's visit to St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (7)

Peanut Carter was the second-worst president in history and is as relevant today as the Erie Canal.

And by the way, is Yessenia Diaz a legal resident or an illegal alien?

touching story. jimmy carter is a true american hero. i'm so glad these kids honor him and strive to emulate him - hopefully one of them will become president! sooner the better!

Catholic school principal, Dan Horn is to be commended for nurturing a relationship between St. Genevieve High School and Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter offers the opportunity for students to be exposed to moral leaders.

it is these types of events that make our school stand out compared to other high schools in our area, in our state, and even in the country, because how many schools get the chance to say, "Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States came to visit our school" that is a honor, these events make me proud to consider myself a Valiant of St Genevieve High School

"CaliPHOBE "

if you look at what carter has done and is still doing for this country( in better words for us people who create this country rather than JUST the wealthy) and bothered to care about others and have a heart, he is a great man who we don't find often, UNSELFISH.
He's 86 and is still going , you will probably give up by 50 or earlier in life.

i was there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CaliPHOBE asked if the Ms. Diaz is a legal resident or not. Well I can most definitely state that Ms. Diaz has more going for her in manners , personality, and intellect than you CaliPhobe because she took a test, interview, and parents cough up over *$8,000 per year to attend this college prep school. Can you say the same for you? Did you even graduate from a low ranking public high school? Your manners reflect not. You stated Carter was the second worst president in the history of US but consider that Carter was savvy enough to get elected and work with the movers and shakers of the world - can you say the same for you? What is on your personal resume besides rudeness?


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