GEAR UP Students Meet ‘McFarland, USA’ State Champions

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PHARR - GEAR UP students are encouraged to reach for their dreams. One group of classmates managed to push through life’s obstacles and succeed. Their story was eventually turned into a movie.

Brothers David and Danny Diaz, along with their high school coach, Jim White, had their lives depicted in the movie McFarland, USA.

The film is based on the true story of a 1987 cross country team from McFarland, California. It stars Kevin Costner as Coach Jim White, the school’s coach who leads the team to win a state championship. The Diaz brothers were on the state-winning team.

GEAR UP and migrant students watched "McFarland, USA" before hearing the Diaz brothers’ and Coach White’s inspiring story. Migrants in Action made the assembly possible.

“The reaction of these kids, it was phenomenal because they really resonate with the movie,” said Noemi Moure with Migrants in Action. “They are migrant kids themselves. They go out in the field and they work hard. And they still have to work twice as hard in school to make sure that they pass and graduate. The relationship that they have with 'McFarland, USA' movie is just great.”

Danny Diaz said he knows many of the students deal with hardships, just like he and his brother did in McFarland. They now travel the country and visit places like the Rio Grande Valley to encourage students to succeed.

“The message is that we are coming from the fields, overcoming different obstacles, just being from a poor family,” Danny Diaz said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.”

David Diaz said he’s grateful his parents pushed all seven of his siblings to get an education. He said it doesn’t matter where people come from, they can achieve anything they believe.

The brothers attribute much of their success to their high school track coach, Jim White. They said he unleashed their potential and helped them win the cross country championship in 1987.

Coach White told the GEAR UP and migrant students that attitude is everything.

“Attitude is the main thing,” White said. “Our attitude, about our lives about our parents lives, our religion, that's so important. And we have to put God in our lives to really have total success.”

You can catch GEAR UP segments on Thursdays on CHANNEL 5 NEWS at 5.