Local Youth Inspired by Surprise Visit from Star of McFarland, USA Movie

Carlos Pratts, star of the 2015 Disney Movie McFarland, USA, surprised more than 1,500 eighth graders from Herkimer and Oneida counties during a field trip to Mohawk Valley Community College’s Utica Campus in November.

Pratts portrayed Thomas Valles, a real-life track and field star on the 1987 championship-winning team from a high school in Central California. The assembly began with an abbreviated showing of the film and Pratts appeared on stage at its conclusion. He talked about his own journey as an actor, Valles’s inspirational story, the importance of believing in one’s dreams and the determination required to succeed in life. Pratts also emphasized that Valles and his teammates had a strong commitment to their community, returning home after college to lead successful careers locally.

At the close of the event, Carter Banks from the Utica Comets briefly addressed the students on the value of living in the Mohawk Valley. As the students exited the Jorgensen Athletic and Event Center, players from the Utica Comets hockey team greeted them and posed for photos.

The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, in partnership with the Utica Comets, Mohawk Valley Community College and other community partners, hosted the inspirational event designed to engage youth in the community.

“This community is full of opportunities, but we’ve found that youth often feel they must leave home in order to achieve their greatest potential,” said Alicia Dicks, President/CEO of The Community Foundation. “Our hope is that inspirational events like this will motivate kids to be part of our community’s future by staying or returning home after graduation. By doing so, they will help create a more vibrant community and build opportunities for future generations to do the same.”

Photo Caption: Carlos Pratts, star of the 2015 Disney Movie McFarland, USA, addresses eighth graders from Herkimer and Oneida counties during a field trip to Mohawk Valley Community College’s Utica Campus in November.