Everyone remembers favorite teachers. Some have transformed our lives.

But what if school were all you had? What if the classroom was the only place you felt nurtured. If you depended on the kindness of teachers to give you a sense of worth?

That's the story Andrew Bridge shared at Hollingworth Elementary School on March 10. The bestselling author of "Hope's Boy" talked to teachers and administrators in the Rowland Unified School District.

The attorney told the educators about the 11 years he spent in the foster care system in Los Angeles County. And he talked about how school served as a lifeline for a lonely young man.

"If you read his book, it's so powerful because it speaks to the heart. That's

Andrew Bridge (Photo by Gina Ward / Rowland Unified)
why we're here - for the kids," said Principal Miriam Kim.

The West Covina principal asked Bridge to share his message so educators realize the powerful influence they exert on young lives.

So for the promise of a free cafeteria lunch, Bridge, who now lives in New York, agreed.

The attorney noted that there are more than a half million children in the foster care system across the country. The average age is 10.

"Most are in foster care not because of abuse but because of poverty," Bridge said.

Sixty-seven percent of those children will attend more than three elementary schools. Less than half will graduate from high school and few will go on to college.

Bridge found his own sanctuary at

school, where the bright foster child man excelled.

"I learned to please teachers and get them to like me. I did well on tests," Bridge recalled.

Growing up in a foster care family in San Fernando Valley, Bridge got the attention he craved at school.

Thanks to a special elementary teacher and a 12th-grade English teacher, Bridge continued to excel. He even became president of the student body.

"Teachers can provide a sense of stability to a foster child," Bridge explained.

But teachers must keep any promises they make to a foster child.

"If you tell him you'll meet him after class, make sure you meet him after class," Bridge said.

Bridge went on to earn a scholarship to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He later became a Fulbright Scholar and graduated from Harvard Law School.

"My foster family offered to adopt me a week after I graduated from Harvard," Bridge said.

Since then, he has spent his career helping some of our country's most vulnerable children.

"Schools can do a lot more for foster children. You could send out a letter saying `we're having a meeting for foster parents and would like to know what you need?"' Bridge said.

He added that it would be nice to have a foster representative on the school PTA.

Afterward, many educators lined up to have Bridge autograph copies of his book "Hope's Boy."

"He really gives you hope," said fifth-grade teacher Gigi Said, who has already adopted a foster child.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801