Young faces, and those young at heart, were treated to inspiring words from current and former professional athletes as well as employees representing the NFL, WNBA and college football in the Howard Center auditorium on June 26.
The program featured former NFL player Ervin “Blue Print” Parker, a native of the Choppee community; Maurice Drayton, a special teams coach with the Green Bay Packers; De’Angelo Henderson, a running back with the New York Jets; Georgetown native William Alan Brown with the Detroit Lions organization; Conway native Everette Sands, running backs coach at Coastal Carolina; and former University of Texas standout and WNBA player Jatarie White.
The speakers provided words of encouragement and shared experiences from their own lives.
The program was conducted in a panel format with help from moderators Dr. Kylon J. Middleton, pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church in Charleston, and Dr. Tracy Swinton Bailey, founder and CEO of Freedom Readers Inc.
Rev. Sandy Drayton, presiding elder for the Georgetown district of AME churches, stressed to the audience that goals are important. He stated the panelists once had dreams and now they to fulfilling those dreams.
“I want each of you to dream,” he said. “Dream of what you want to do in life, where you want to go, and how successful you will be as a citizen of the area where you are living. The tragedy is not reaching your goals in life. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”
Ervin “Blue Print” Parker and De’Angelo Henderson were asked by the moderators how they define success.
“It doesn’t matter where you are from or where you want to go,” Parker said. “It’s the way you want to get there.”
“Keep your faith. Stay true to yourself,” Henderson said. “Believe in yourself and never give up on you.”
All of the panelists agreed that while the vast majority of people do not reach the level of professional sports, there are many other ways to succeed in life.
“As long as you have your education, no one can take that away from you,” Everette Sands said. “Regardless of whether you are from a big city or a little town, if you get your education you will have the opportunity to be successful.”
Henderson discussed adversity he’s faced throughout his life. A little over a year ago, as a member of the Denver Broncos, he was in a major car accident — he was struck by a drunk driver. His Jeep went airborne and rolled over in the crash, Henderson said after the incident.
He was not severely hurt in the crash, but the wreck impacted him in another way.
“It was the most traumatizing thing that I have ever been a part of,” he said. It took something like that to happen to me to understand what I really was. I’ve never let my circumstances dictate who I wanted to become. I’ve never let it hinder me and I’ve always kept a positive mindset.”
Maurice Drayton shared a cardinal rule that helps guide his life in everything he does.
“I’m going to be responsible for myself,” he said. “I’m going to stand on my own two feet. Regardless of what you think about me, I’m going to find a way to overcome that.”
Jatarie White told the young women and girls in the audience that they are held to a higher standard, but they all have the ability to shine.
“We have to dress up,” she said. “We have to look like we are ready for business and ready to go out there and represent ourselves to the best of our abilities.”
Allan Brown spoke about the importance of networking to help advance your career.
“It’s the people that you know that will help you,” he said. “You have to go out there and be persistent.”
Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber, Andrews Mayor Frank McClary, Georgetown police chief Kelvin Waites, GCSD Superintendent Randy Dozier and Georgetown magistrate Johnathan D. Guiles each gave remarks before the program started.
Shauna Simmons welcomed everyone to the event and New Generation from Shiloh AME Church entertained the audience with musical selections.
The program was organized by Georgetown Outreach Ministries with help of The Standard, a local organization consisting of young adult volunteers. The event was sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of of South Carolina.