HOT TOPIC: A Way Up for African-American Boys Part 5

Part 5: BE AN EXAMPLE – THE MOTIVATIONAL YOUNG LEADER OF THE PACK

We have: Part 1 – Identified the Issues, and discussed the importance of Part 2 – Making an Impact & Sharing Jesus.  We have also discussed the significance and challenges of Part 3: Being A Mentor and Part 4: Being A Tutor.  I am closing out this series with my final featured guest to let you know that there is hope.

I am so honored to introduce First Lieutenant Zerbin Singleton, United States Marine Corps.  I met Zerbin while working at the Naval Academy, where he served as the Brigade Commander (highest rank) during his last semester as a midshipman (student).  His leadership and influence also included a three year varsity letter for the Navy football team. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 2008 with a 3.14 GPA as an Aerospace Engineering Major! Currently, Zerbin is stationed at Corpus Christi, Texas where he attends flight training to pursue his aspirations of becoming a Marine Corps Pilot.  His long-term career goals are to become an astronaut, and to own a private jet charter company.  His story will blow you away.

First Lieutenant Zerbin Singleton, U.S. Marine Corps

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this interview are those of Zerbin Singleton as a private citizen and do not reflect the views of the United States Marine Corps or the military service at large.

1. Tell us a little bit about your story.

I have lived a life characterized by perseverance, hard work, and overcoming adversity.  I was born in Alaska in 1984 to a drug addicted mother, and a father I would not know until I was fifteen years old. As a young boy, I was surrounded by domestic violence, drugs, poverty, and sometimes even homelessness.

At nine years old my mother was incarcerated, and I was sent to live with a cousin and her husband in Decatur, Georgia. They became my mother and father and provided a sense of family, security, and stability that was missing in my life.

During high school, I was recognized as an exceptional student, leader, and athlete. I graduated as class president and valedictorian. Seven days before high school graduation, I was struck and injured by a drunk driver.  By that time, I had established a strong and growing relationship with my biological father, who later committed suicide.

Despite these obstacles, I never gave up on my dreams. While attending the Naval Academy, I earned Disney’s Wide World of Sports Spirit Award and the FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award for being the most inspirational and courageous collegiate football player in the nation.

2. How did you escape being one of the boys that we are talking about in this series?
The number one thing that keeps me going is my faith in God.  I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I never saw myself as a victim; I recognized that everything happens for a reason.  I have had the support of family and friends. Perseverance is key! I set goals and work to achieve them. I have a relentless spirit and keep a positive attitude.

3. You are quite busy. Why is it important for you to “Pay It Forward” or make the sacrifice to give back to the youth in our country?

I always encourage people to give back.  I do not forget where I came from. If I can change one young person’s life in the right direction, I imagine the exponential impact that change will have on the world.  He or she will then help somebody else and so on. I hope that the kids I mentor will do the same within their communities and eventually all of our communities will prosper.

4. What is your message to young people? 

I want young people to know that they can do and be anything they want. Set goals and don’t let anyone tell you what you cannot do.  Education is a must, including a college degree.  Use my acronym of FAR (Faith, Attitude, and Reaching).  If you want to go FAR in life and pursue your dreams, start with faith.  Keep a positive attitude and then you can reach your goals.

5. What do you want my readers to know when reaching out to these young people?

Never give up on a child.  All young people can be reached; the challenge is figuring out the best method to use.  Help shape their vision, encourage a thirst for education, and inform them how daily decisions will impact their lives.

Natasha’s Comments: Zerbin a living example of what happens when individuals intentionally step up to consistently make an investment in a young person’s life.  Instead of being one of the boys that we are talking about in this series, he is serving as an example of what all of these boys can be. Zerbin is a mentor for several programs and is also a sought after speaker.  Zerbin can be reached via Facebook, Twitter@zerbins, or his official website at www.ZSingleton.com.

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