Trayvon Martin's mother had a message for a group of teenagers in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday -- one she wished her slain 17-year-old son could hear one last time.
"I need to tell you all how special you are and how very much needed you are," Sybrina Fulton told students at Whiddon-Rogers, an alternative education center for struggling middle and high schoolers. "I want this to sink in your system before anything happens to you."
Fulton was part of a town hall meeting joined by police, politicians, pastors and members of the criminal justice system. She urged students to graduate and achieve, despite negative perceptions others may have of them.
Each of the speakers answered students' questions about the Trayvon Martin case, the Stand Your Ground law and race relations.
"The playing field ain't equal, so you have to be prepared," Fort Lauderdale Assistant Police Chief Anthony Williams told about 30 students who were dressed up for the event. "They say perception doesn't matter but it does, so keep your pants pulled up, keep your language square and present yourselves how you are today."
Senior Davonte Logan agreed. He said when he wears baggy clothes, people assume he's up to no good and don't realize that's far from the truth. He's an artist.
"You've got to see how that person's life is," he said.
The speakers all called for the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law that gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves. The law was not used in shooter George Zimmerman's defense, but was debated throughout the case.
"There wasn't much in recent history that really captivated the attention of our kids until this happened ... many of the kids see Trayvon as themselves," said principal David Watkins.
He said the town hall was an opportunity to inspire students to vote, get a job that can affect change and most importantly, finish school.
"These are the kids that have been on the margins at their home schools. Now they're front and center and I think that really changes their attitudes," he said.
Discussions of Zimmerman's acquittal pervaded the hallways when school began so Watkins organized the town hall. He said he never expected such a response.
Angelina Lockett, 15, felt reassured by the passionate support from the speakers.
"It made me feel as if I was something. I always felt like I meant nothing in this world," she said. "You're not alone, people really care about you, not just when you're gone."
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