Former P.A.R.K. Students
In 2002, I entered P.A.R.K. as a thirteen-year-old loving, comical, free-spirit with very little to say about my future endeavors. I’d witnessed my older sister’s success as a member of the first graduating P.A.R.K. class; yet there was an evident perpetual behavior while growing up in Southwest Little Rock neighborhoods. Statistics were clear; graduating from high school was a stretch and graduating from college was merely unthinkable. As an 8th grader, I didn’t thoroughly understand the tremendous opportunity I had in that moment of time. Like many students, I constantly challenged the efforts of staff not knowing all attempts would be ineffective; they are adamant in their position of students not failing. It wasn’t until I was serious enough to visualize my future that I understood success or failure was ultimately based on my personal investment, coupled with the commitment of strong supporters.
P.A.R.K. is much more than a safe haven for teens every day after school; it's a unique atmosphere where you are loved and encouraged during the journey of bringing your future goals to life. P.A.R.K. was drastically different than my reality in Southwest Little Rock, and they had one simple rule; work hard and you will be greatly rewarded with a tool that no one can take away, a scholarship towards a college education. The simple objective was to succeed by all means necessary.
I too, am the product of a single-parent home. My mother provided an exceptional example of success when you have faith, hard work and determination. Mr. Jackson also served as a prominent father figure to myself and many other father-less students. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be the uncommon statistic that reversed the way black men are portrayed in society. I refused to give into the cycle and become my circumstances. I had a choice; choose to be a positive light or choose to succumb to the negative behavior which was so prevalent and plaguing those around me. As a twenty-seven-year-old in hindsight, I was incredibly blessed. I consider P.A.R.K. the critical foundation and key difference maker in my achievements. I knew I had something in life that wasn’t awarded to most students, and a rare chance that I abused and took for granted. I was gifted with a winning formula coupled with an amazing opportunity to succeed; but it was up to me to see it through.
Five years is a very long time for anyone to commit to something, especially a teenage boy. However, with the wisdom of the staff over the years, I learned there was more to life than what I "knew" and what had become my “reality." I learned that higher education provides you with limitless opportunities to advance and give back, and I intended to reach as high as I could. P.A.R.K. had a significant purpose in my life and was essential in developing the man I have become today. Mr. Jackson helped steer me in a direction which allowed me to understand and appreciate the benefits of doing the right thing. I graduated from Little Rock Parkview in 2006 and received a scholarship to the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, where I graduated in 2010 from the Walton College of Business with a Bachelor of Science focusing in Information Systems. The relationships formed, and the skill sets gained from P.A.R.K. experiences no doubt provided me with the confidence to jumpstart my technology career in the Information Systems Division as a Sr Systems Programmer for the number one Fortune 500 Company in the world, Walmart Stores, Inc.
The journey was not easy, and the lessons were often difficult. Nevertheless, one thing is certain; the core mission behind P.A.R.K. couldn’t have been accomplished without the efforts of “my village” who never gave up on me. They allowed me to march to the rhythm of my dreams and became my family. I am forever indebted to my P.A.R.K. family. I intend to serve as a beacon of light and uplift others as many have so graciously done for me.