My son and I were seated with our popcorn about to watch a movie in a cinema in California. We were watching the trailers when there was something about the new Disney film ‘Aladdin.’ My precious son has autism and he became very animated because he absolutely adores anything to do with Disney. When he young he loved the animated Disney film on Aladdin. He can’t wait to see it on the big screen.
The camera focused on Princess Jasmine, I couldn’t even eat my popcorn. When I saw the actress playing Jasmine I was transported in my mind to the early 2000s to Davenant Foundation school in Loughton, Essex in the United Kingdom. It was like being in a dream. I could see the classroom in this secondary school where I taught Religious Studies. Seated right in front of me was a teenage Naomi Scott in skirt, blazer and tie, always looking very smart. I think I also taught her older brother – they were both courteous and respectful to their teachers. Here was I in a cinema watching a former student, now a top Hollywood actress. I turned to my son and said: ‘I taught Naomi!’ He smiled with eyes of appreciation, if it’s anything to do with Disney he just loves it!
My mind went back to Naomi Scott in the classroom. I had placed the school desks in a u-shaped model so that I could move around and engage my students in debate and discussion. The subject, Religious Studies leant itself to a great deal of debate and Naomi Scott was always in the thick of it. She took part in these debates on religious issues and was extremely bright and gave very thoughtful answers. She certainly had her opinions! What struck me was her compassion. Naomi was always a very kind and compassionate human being. If we discussed poverty or the life of Jesus Naomi participated in these debates and discussion with compassion. It was recently I read that Naomi was an Ambassador for Compassion UK, a Christian Charity reaching out to orphans around the world. Naomi has visited countries like Rwanda and she has also visited Ethiopia on mission trips with her parents church in Essex, United Kingdom. I read this about Naomi’s views on her trip to Ethiopia with Compassion UK from the charity’s website:
“When I visited the Compassion project I saw that giving children hope is the heart and culture of Compassion. I remember that we went to the head offices and we saw how sponsors’ letters are sorted. We learnt so much about how children are incredibly protected through the sponsorship programme. We met a guy called Tsehaywota who is the National Director for Compassion Ethiopia. He is an amazingly humble man. It struck me that all the staff were so welcoming and so joyful and enthusiastic about what they are doing. The heart for children really does run through the whole organization. I saw the impact Compassion has on a child’s life. That when you sponsor a child , you provide them with medical care, tend to their emotional and social well-being and ensure the chance for a great education. It’s very holistic which is something I really love. Ultimately, it’s showing God’s love and showing God’s grace. “
Now that’s what I loved about Naomi, she had a compassionate heart. She always looked at the needs of other people. Naomi is practicing Christian, even back then in the 2,000s. She had a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Her parents Chris and Oosha Scott were pastors in Buckhurst Hill, Essex. I knew them well. I invited Pastor Chris Scott to come into the school and discuss partnership working. The school had a Christian ethos and there was a very active Christian Union. Chris sent his Youth Pastor to launch some very innovative programs which captured the imagination of the students. These activities were held at lunchtime in my classroom and Naomi attended them. She was very involved in the discussions. The growth of these activities were phenomenal and many children attended them. I had also launched a student forum called Davenant International at the school to look at exploring the global dimension to the curriculum – through eight concepts:
Values and Perceptions
This was a first for a school in Essex in the United Kingdom and the forum was very popular with the students. Naomi and her brother have attended some of these meetings. We had some very interesting speakers attending the forum. The children of Chernobyl visited the school. I tried to teach the students to be compassionate leaders and extend a hand of compassion to others not only in the UK but also around the world.
‘We live in one world. What we do affects others, and what others do affects us, as never before. To recognize that we are all members of a world community and that we all have responsibilities to each other is not romantic rhetoric, but modern economic and social reality.’
After I left the school I was delighted the work goes on.
Naomi’s has had a phenomenal rise as an actress in Hollywood. She starred as Kimberly Hart, the Pink Ranger, in the 2017 Power Rangers film my son had watched it without knowing that Naomi was a former student! I have also spoken to my students about my son who is on the autism spectrum. I told them to reach out in love to people with disabilities including autism. Naomi co-starred as Maddy Shannon in the science fiction drama series Terra Nova, and starred as Mohini “Mo” Banjaree in the Disney Channel original film Lemonade Mouth and as Megan in the TV series Life Bites. In 2015 Scott was named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow. She is set to play Princess Jasmine in the live-action remake of Aladdin. In July 2018, Sony Pictures Entertainment confirmed that Naomi will star as one of the three lead ‘Angels’ in the new 2019 Elizabeth Banks directed reboot film of Charlie’s Angels, along with Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska.
Naomi’s first major role was with Disney in a Disney Channel UK series’ Life Bites.’ In 2010, she was cast as Mohini “Mo” Banjaree in the 2011 Disney Channel original film Lemonade Mouth, her first role in an American production. That same year, she was cast as Maddy Shannon, in the science-fiction series Terra Nova which premiered in September 2011 on Fox. The series was not renewed for a second season. In 2013, Scott appeared in the music video for the song “Hurricane”, by her Lemonade Mouth co-star Bridgit Mendler. In August 2014, she independently released her debut EP Invisible Division. Naomi was cast as Ryoko in Ridley Scott’s The Martian. She filmed her scenes but they were removed from the final cut. Screen International selected Naomi as one of their 2015 Stars of Tomorrow. In October 2015, she was cast in a co-leading role as Kimberly Hart, the Pink Ranger, in Power Rangers (2017), the film adaptation of the TV series of the same name. The film was released on 24 March 2017, and earned Naomi her first Teen Choice Award nomination. In July 2017, Naomi was cast as Princess Jasmine in a live-action remake of Aladdin.
She married Jordan Spence a footballer with Ipswich somehow I think I have met him as well when he was a teenager.
When Naomi was in my classroom, she used to sing. She sang like an angel. She had this amazing voice, pitch perfect. As her teacher, I remember telling her to concentrate on the lesson!
Here is Naomi aged 15 singing at Davenant Foundation School. I think this was after I had left the school.
Here is Naomi Scott singing ‘Say Nothing,’ in 2014. She is an extremely talented singer. I have been blessed to have heard her sing in my classroom as a very young teenager!
As I sat there in a cinema in California with my son, I could only offer a thank you to God that our paths, rather briefly, crossed as a teacher – pupil. I was extremely proud to see her on the big screen. She is going to be a huge star. It is so wonderful to see someone so grounded in her faith as a committed Christian do well in life. Our paths may never cross again but I thank God for Naomi Scott. I could clearly see the blessings and the favour on her life.
Article copyright of Ivan Corea c 2019
Photographs courtesy of Disney.
Some information courtesy of Wikipedia.
Aladdin opens on May 23rd across the United States of America.
Quote courtesy of the Compassionate UK website – to support the charity please click on the link: https://www.compassionuk.org/