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Gloria Prentice, a longtime educator and activist in Pomona, was "hurt, devastated and embarassed" when she realized her son was ditching classes, taking drugs and committing crimes.
The now-38-year-old Pomona man had been easy-going, jovial, academically and athletically gifted and slow to anger - until he started flirting with drugs. "Instead of sending him off to college in 1988, my husband and I sent him to a drug rehabilitation center in Orange County," Prentice recalled. On Wednesday, Prentice will be among the panelists for the "Prison Doesn't Have To Be A Life Sentence" seminar presented by Transcendence Children and Family Services at 9 a.m. at Claremont's DoubleTree Hotel. She will speak as a parent of an ex-offender and discuss the effects of incarceration on families as well as the recent discovery her son had sought comfort in drugs to cope with what medical authorities have now diagnosed as manic-depression and bipolar disorders. To protect his and relatives' privacy, the name Larry will be used for her son. This is not his real name. Prentice taught and pioneered special education and remedial reading programs in Arkansas schools for five years. When plans to become a legislative aide in Washington, D.C. didn't materialize, her sister suggested "pack up your things and head to California." Newly divorced and with a young son, Prentice loaded Prentice taught at Garey for 19 years, served as Ganesha High School assistant principal for eight years and returned to classroom teaching before retiring from Pomona Unified School District in 2007. Now an educational consultant, she has been a community volunteer for 30 years. Life was good for Prentice, her new husband, firstborn son and two younger sons. Larry started playing Little League at age 7 and was a star player by his teen years. He was a scholar-athlete who loved Atari video games, playing marbles, swimming and skateboarding. He spent summers with his biological father and enjoyed warm relationships with family and community friends in Arkansas and California. Prentice noticed subtle changes in Larry's behavior at age 14. She thought the best way to keep her son safe and out of trouble was to enroll him in the school where she taught. Then he started cutting classes. "If he didn't go to class, teachers would pick up the phone and say `He's not here.' Then my husband and I would get in the car and search the neighborhood for him," Prentice remembered. "We even went to the cemetery because the kids would smoke dope there." With a wide network of concerned colleagues, community friends and even her students, it didn't take Prentice long to discover a schoolmate had introduced Larry to marijuana and crack cocaine. Bush-Simmons found the discovery hard to believe - until she looked in Larry's eyes. "There was something in his eyes that was different," she said. Prentice admitted spending a lot of time on her knees, praying. She's still praying, now for her husband, his father and his trouble-free brothers to move past their anger about Larry's behavior, for Larry to be reunited and functional with the son his parents have raised for him and for Larry to stay sober and free.
INFORMATION: Assistant Principal Gloria Prentice, 397-4400 Garey High SchoolDATE: Today TIME: 7 p.m.
Assistant Principal, Guidance: Gloria Prentice