The Forest Grove Middle School assistant principal had a pretty good excuse. Her dinner companion was President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.
Scurry had been notified three weeks before that she had won the national Dinner with Barack contest, sponsored by the Obama campaign for supporters, but had to keep it a secret until the day of the event. She told only her principal, who urged her to go. "But I hated having to miss the first days of school," she said.
As one of three national winners, Scurry and husband Henry, a teacher and coach, were flown to Washington, where they were greeted like celebrities, staying overnight and joining the Obamas for dinner. The intimate meal at the Mintwood Restaurant, which was closed for the event, was attended only by the other two grand prize winners and their guests.
"I didn't give a lot to the campaign," the Port St. Lucie resident confided. "Our family finances are pretty stretched because I recently had breast cancer. But I gave a little each month for a few months. I felt really committed to the cause."
She also is a strong supporter of Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative; she works to implement programs at her school that promote healthy lifestyles, as well as at home, with her two daughters.
Each winner was allowed to ask one question of the president, and when it came to Scurry's turn, she asked the question of the first lady instead.
"I asked her about how she was raising her daughters, because I have two daughters who are each just a year younger than her two," she said. "We both care so much about making healthy choices for our kids and setting a good example."
The president offered a story for Scurry to share individually with her middle school kids who needed an extra push.
"He said he started to goof off at the end of high school, not be a serious student. Then, in his freshman year of college, a professor took him aside. He told him, 'You can do better than this,' and tore up his paper. Obama told me it made him realize that what he did mattered, that there were always teachers who cared. He rewrote the paper and applied himself after that."
It didn't take long for Scurry to relate the story.
"My first day back at Forest Grove, I took a student aside who had been struggling with a poor attitude and told him the president's story. I said, 'I am like that professor. I know you can do better,' " she said. "He came in the next day and told me he was changing his game. I can help these kids, one child at a time."
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