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Who WE Are – Frankie Bonilla

When William Penn High School (WPHS) students leave Frankie Bonilla’s office they often feel like they’re on top of the world. It’s no wonder, WPHS’s new assistant principal literally has students stand on a circular rug with an image of the world on it. “How does it feel to be on top of the world?” Bonilla asks before he has the student look in a mirror across from the rug with the words “talk to me nice” on it. Bonilla challenges every student to say something positive about themselves. He strongly believes self-affirming words will help students meet life’s challenges the same way he did. He recalls being an angry child who was kicked out of every middle school  he ever attended in York, PA, but he adds, “teachers still believed in me… I remember being the worst behaved kid in a self contained class and a teacher pulling me out and telling me you’re special. People follow you not because you’re funny, but because you’re a leader.” Today Bonilla is a leader and the only male Latino administrator in the Colonial School District who planned  WPHS’s first Latino Heritage Month celebration with more cultural  celebrations planned for other minorities. He makes a point to sow the same seeds of encouragement in students that were sown into him as a youngster. Ironically, despite his behavior problems Bonilla remembers an administrator who told him he scored the highest of all middle school students in the city of York, PA on a standardized test. Like his former teacher, that administrator knew Bonilla could have a bright future if redirected.  With tears in his eyes Bonilla says “I stand here today on their shoulders because they believed in me regardless of what the eye was showing them and so I do the same with students. When they’re having the hardest times is when I talk into their spirits the most. I want them to remember that I believe in them and there’s always a way out!”