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Mid-Valley Town Crier Newspaper

Mid-Valley Town Crier Newspaper

School seminars on patriotism coming to WISD
September 14, 2007 - 12:58PM
WESLACO — School district officials are hoping school children learn the value of American freedoms during a series of seminars set to begin Monday in conjunction with Freedom Week.

Officials invited the non-profit organization, Free To Be, to give 40-minute assembly presentations to middle and high school students about America, patriotism and the relativity of success.
Picture of Article from Mid Valley Town Crier in Weslaco, Texas
“The selling point is it’s for kids,” said Linda Taormina, Title One Migrant Coordinator. “It’s to help them to appreciate these freedoms. I thought why (Tooker) wanted to present it was a good idea.”

Estella Lopez, Social Studies Strategist at WISD, thinks the assemblies will greatly benefit her students.

“The students need to get involved and appreciate their freedom,” she said. “The assembly is supposed to be comprised of a person speaking, a video and I believe dramatization.”

Larry Tooker, founder of Free To Be, said the organizations’ mission is to inspire young people to love and appreciate the country, to be good citizens and good leaders.

“We do a 20-minute video on a giant screen and a 20-minute interaction with kids on veterans, success and relativity of success, patriotism and their duty someday to run this country and select leaders,” he said.

The Free To Be speaker, Stefanie de la Garza, will discuss Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation,” and explain how the students may have the opportunity to one day earn that title for themselves.

Aside from patriotism and veterans, de la Garza will also talk about success and what it means to each individual.

“Not everyone can be Oprah or Bill gates and they should aspire to be good citizens with good homes and family, and that’s a success,” Tooker said.

Free To Be will also be the feature of the program Wednesday night for the First Responders Conference at Knapp Medical Center.

Tooker believes the assembly could have a positive impact on students.

“We want them at an early age to be thinking how lucky they are to be in America, and not lose our country and out freedom,” he said. “They’re countless ways to serve the county; be mayor, be council, vote, work in hospitals, work with the elderly, be in the military, firefighters, policemen or medical services. That strengthens the country and the community. All of these people are preserving our freedom.”

For more information on the program visit their website at or

Edgewood Enterprise

Edgewood Enterprise

"Free to Be" appeals to students about preserving freedom


Free to Be is a non-profit organization, in Fairview, Texas, whose goal is to Edgewood Enterprise Articleimpact young people now about the importance of being free and American. The project was the brainchild of Founders, Larry and Jenifer Tooker. The Tooker's goal is to visit 25 million students in High School and Middle Schools across the U.S., to instill in them the appreciation and value of freedom.
    As part of Veterans Day, this patriotic assembly was presented to students in Grand Saline and Edgewood several weeks ago.
    The Free to Be Program incorporates speakers, emotional video, powerful music and eye-catching graphics into a 40 minute presentation. The program reminds students about freedoms that we as Americans often take for granted, and the price our country has paid to preserve those freedoms.
    Recent studies show that young people rank being a good American, as a low priority.
    Some point to the fact that the requirement of the No Child Left Behind law emphasizes reading and math, and cuts out American History and Social Studies. Sadly students in     Texas, log more hours learning Texas History than they to American History. 
The program stated that half the world's population has never used a cell phone and the average American salary is $26,000 a year when whole nations are comprised of people fighting to survive on $1.00 a day.
    America offers more hope, freedom and democracy, and over 40,000,000 immigrants have sought it's shores to achieve their dreams.
    The program gave examples of what other nations face on a daily basis. Ins Saudi Arabia, women are only allowed to have their eyes exposed and are expected to walk several steps behind the males. In New Zealand one in five people live in severe poverty, and in the Soviet Union it is illegal to shoot video and listen to rock music.
    One veteran featured in the video said it simply, "When people control government that's freedom, when government controls people that's not freedom."
    Over 1,000,000 American veterans have lost their lives in foreign and domestic wars, and paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.
    Free to Be is teaching love, appreciation and understanding for one's country, and appealing to the younger generation to preserve and protect those freedoms so America can continue to remain free. The program expressed that the younger generation could choose to vote or not vote, but that they would not be able to enjoy their personal freedoms unless they participate in caring for our nation.
    Free to Be Program coordinator, Stefanie DeLaGarza stressed this phrase to the Edgewood and Grand Saline students. "Freedom is a gift. It can't be bought or sold, but it can be lost," DeLaGarza said.
    Ironically, Thomas Jefferson was concerned about future generations continuing the legacy of freedom when he said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." But have we been vigilant, or have our children been allowed to take freedom for granted? How can we be sure they will be committed to protecting our liberties for futures generations?

Dallas Morning News

Dallas Morning News

  Free to Be brings citizenship lesson to life at Texas schools 

Saturday, June 16, 2007
Lakewood/East Dallas
Chris Gresback

    On Thursday, our country observed Flag Day. Since it is not one of the 10 federally observed holidays like Presidents Day or the Fourth of July, my guess is not many young people paid much attention to the 230th birthday of our nation's flag.
    Flag Day commemorates the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - it was officially established by a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916. It was not until August 3, 1949, that President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as Flag Day.
    Our flag represents unity and independence, not to mention the freedom we enjoy as a nation because of the men and women who have served our country and continue to do so today. It is our responsibility to teach young men and women what the flag stands for, and not to take our freedom for granted.Dallas Morning News Article

    Lakewood-area resident John Marston Jr. is doing just that. He is one of many of the concerned citizens involved in spreading the word about the nonprofit organization Free to Be, founded by Larry and Jenifer Tooker.
    Mr. Tooker felt students were not being taught what he believes is the most important subject in school - to love and appreciate America and its freedoms.
    "I came to Dallas in 1963 fresh from active [Army] duty and with a high school diploma from Norman High School in Oklahoma [Class of ‘60]. Twenty years later, I wake up with a great family and business success and realize, ‘How great is this!'
    "And it dawned on me over time that it is simply a function of having been born in America," he said. "I could not have experienced this anywhere else...say, Ethiopia or Russia or Pakistan. I was just lucky to be born in America."
    In the ‘80s, Mr. Tooker said, he began to notice that young people were taking this country and its freedoms for granted. Still wondering how he could make a difference and show young people what it means to be born in the U.S., Mr. Tooker recalled sitting in an assembly in high school watching a movie about smoking and cancer.
    "It was an unforgettable, powerful, emotional movie/assembly," he said. "I still remember ever frame today."
    With that memory in mind, this year, Mr. Tooker and others produced Free to Be, an interactive, nonpolitical presentation that has been presented to 90 different assemblies, including one at Woodrow Wilson High School this past year. In its first year, it reached 34,000 students.
    "In on 40-minute assembly, we wake the kids up to the fact that they are lucky to live in America, that over 1 million young people have given their lives in the name of freedom since 1776, and that they soon face the responsibility to run and govern our country and to preserve America and freedom for the next generation."
    Free to Be is presented to schools statewide free of charge. To keep doing so, Mr. Tooker's group is raising funds by hosting a golf invitational tournament and walk July 2 at Prestonwood Hills Country Club in Plano. For information visit
Waco Tribune Newspaper

Waco Tribune Newspaper

Patriotism of another era touted in McGregor

Saturday, April 28, 2007
By Erin Quinn
Tribune-Herald staff writer

McGREGOR — Their message was simple — almost cliché:    Appreciate those who fought for your country.     Realize most people in the world don’t have it as good.    Be proud to be an American.    But in that simplicity was power. Waco Tribune Article Featuring WWII Veteran Bob Lucas   

When that message was delivered Friday to the McGregor High School student body by a World War II veteran who grew up in rural Central Texas, there were signs of the message hitting home.    Several students stayed long after the program to chat with 87-year-old Rosebud native Bob Lucas about his 14 missions over Nazi Germany as a bomber pilot. On one of those flights, he was shot down and his plane crashed into a field of snow.    On Friday some students casually walked by to shake Lucas’ hand.    And after coming into the school’s auditorium a bit ho-hum about the assembly, most left with a little more spring to their step.    After all, that’s the goal of the program. Lucas tours Texas with the Free to Be organization, a nonprofit that began about three years ago. The program tours schools with a simple message of patriotism portrayed in a 25-minute video delivered mostly by teens.    “These kids don’t even know who George Washington is these days,” Lucas said. “The goal of this is to teach the kids a little about America — what it is, what it stands for and what it costs to be free. Teach them some patriotism.”

No political agenda    The North Texas-based organization does not take a stance on the war and aims to be non-political, group officials say.    Lucas, who previously worked in sales and management at IBM and works in real estate, graduated from Rosebud High School in 1937 and from Baylor University in 1941.     Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force and spent the next two years flying B-24s over Germany.    His plane was shot down in 1943. No one was injured in the crash, but he was sent back to the states.    Larry Tooker, a longtime friend of Lucas, produced the video and started the Free to Be… organization. He quickly got the animated Lucas involved. Some of the teenagers at Friday’s assembly have grandparents who fought in the Vietnam War.     Lucas may well be the first World War II veteran most of these teens have ever met — and will ever meet.    And that, McGregor High School Principal James Lenamon said, will probably stay with them long after Friday’s assembly.    “They were not just able to put a face with an event, but it was the face of a gentleman from just down the road,” he said.

Rosebud-Lott High School Newspaper

Rosebud-Lott High School Newspaper

"Free To Be" Presented Friday

Cougar Cry Staff Writer

    R-L students learned in a "Free to Be" assembly Friday in the old gym, that "freedom can't be bought; it can't be sold; but it can be lost."
    Bob Lucas, 86, a 1937 graduate of Rosebud High School, spoke briefly after the video presentation. Cougar Newspaper ArticleDuring high school, he played football and basketball. He was drafted and served in World War II for four years.
    "Freedom means everything," Mr. Lucas said. "Without it, you have nothing. With it, you can do what you please and can go far."
    The supporter of the organization is Bob Neal, who also attended.
    Larry Tooker, the founder of the organization, talked about the importance of recognizing our freedoms and to not take them for granted. It has been his dream for three years to create and tour the video presentation. His dream finally came true last April, and they began touring schools.
    Stephanie DeLaGarza presented the video.
    "We are here to inspire young teenagers to appreciate their freedoms, not take them for granted, and to make them think," Mrs. DeLaGarza, who introduced the video, said. "It has been Larry's dreams to do this for years. He lived a good life, and he realized that freedom has made all these things happen."
    The project manager and wife of Larry Tooker, Jenifer Tooker, was very inspirational on her ideas about freedom, and how important freedom is in everyday life.
    "It's an amazing feeling to see that young people watch [the presentation] and are interested," Mrs. Tooker said.
    The program will be going national according Mrs. DeLaGarza, and will need about forty People to help. R-L students who like traveling might want to consider being part of the program after receiving their diploma. Students who are interested or would like to know more about the program can find more information at or

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Fairview, TX  214-529-0679