Look Back at Students Who Gave Principal Breakfast in Bed

In 2002, students won breakfast in bed for a principal with a heart of gold.

ByBRIAN O'KEEFE via logo
April 9, 2009, 9:53 PM

April 10, 2009 — -- On an October morning in 2002, when most of Los Angeles was just waking up, a group of kids from View Park Prep School was buzzing with excitement by the surprise it had cooked up for principal Mike Piscal.

Emeril Lagasse had arrived at the school to bring breakfast in bed to Piscal.

The students had sent a music video to the "Good Morning America" Breakfast in Bed Contest, asking us to salute Piscal -- and feed him!

It turns out, Piscal's story was one well worth saluting, and revisiting.

Piscal had given up a teaching job at a privileged school for wealthy children to pursue his dream of opening a school that would help get inner-city kids into college.

He maxed out his credit cards to fund it. The first classroom was a borrowed church basement.

He established View Park Elementary School in 1999 and then a middle school in 2001.

The two schools he created when "GMA" visited now include 13 charter schools, including elementary, middle and high schools.

"Right now we have 3,000 students in 13 schools and we intend to grow to 17,000 students in 35 schools and the reason why is half the kids in South L.A. drop out of high school," Piscal told "GMA."

In south central Los Angeles, an area hurting from gangs and drugs, less than 10 percent of youths complete four years of college.

Piscal's charter school organization, the Inner City Education Foundation, aims to turn around those statistics.

"We are at the epicenter of everything that is wrong in America and there are wonderful children that live in this community," he said. But "the whole system is not working for the children."

His success rate has been astonishing. Virtually all ICEF students go to college. Education experts everywhere are sitting up and taking notice.

"It's an amazing explosion of activity in this community where before there was really nothing. He's a pioneer," said Priscilla Wohlstetter, a University of Southern California education professor.

Where Are Kids Now?

Piscal's educational model is a small class size, a flexible curriculum and heavy parental involvement. And his genius is also fiscal -- he combines fundraising from donations with public funds. Every penny he can get his hands on goes to better the lives of the children.

"As a mother of two African-American male children, I am ecstatic to be here because the peer group is everything. And here it's cool to be smart," said Marsha Mitchell-Bray.

Big universities are now lining up to recruit his graduates.

"They are outstanding. It's hard to stand out at Berkeley, but they are outstanding," Walter Robinson, an admissions officer at the University of California, Berkeley, said of Piscal's graduates.

"GMA" caught up with some of the students it met in 2002.

Dwight Sanders was a teacher's aide on his way to completing a teaching degree.

"He's grown me to be a teacher like you would take seeds and grow a flower. He's grown me as a teacher," Sanders said.

Sanders is now the principal of the View Park Middle School.

Cameron Filer, who was 12 and one of the first View Park students, wanted to help Emeril and the crew with the surprise breakfast.

"We started a school like a rose grows out of concrete," Filer said now.

He's a sophomore in college studying economics.

"College is the least I'm going to do in life, and then there's the ceiling, which is the sky," he said.

In 2002, student Jessica Thompson told "GMA" she was trying to get an A in every subject. "I'd say I haven't quite reached my boundaries yet ."

Though she moved to another school before graduating, Thompson said she never forgot what Piscal had taught her.

"I'm going to be a gynecologist and I plan on majoring in biology at Spelman and then go to Emory Medical School to complete my medical training," Thompson said.

Second-graders just starting out at View Park are already planning for the future.

"My favorite things are science, math and lunch," said Christopher Young.

Kalia Thompson said, "When I grow up I want to be either a specialist doctor on heart attacks or president of the United States."

Find out more about the Inner City Education Foundation.

Click here to enter Emeril's Breakfast in Bed Contest.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events