FLINT TWP. — Like his grandfather and father before him, Eric Thomas was a high school drop-out.
At age 16, rebellious and headstrong, he found himself living on the gritty streets of Detroit involved with the wrong people and headed to no good end.
A minister who saw potential in the young street thug persuaded him to return to school to earn his G.E.D. and pursue higher education.
But it was the birth of his son 17 years ago that solidified Thomas’ focus. Within one month of his son’s birth, Thomas said his barely passing grade point average shot up to a 3.5 and he neversawagradeaslowasaCagain.
For the first time in his life, Thomas was making an all-out effort because he wanted to provide for and set a better example for his son.
Thomas described that pivotal moment as discovering his “why”?
He encouraged students at Carman- Ainsworth High School to identify their own “why” during a special school-wide assembly held last Friday.
The “renew” event/assembly was originally planned for Jan. 28 to coincide with the start of the second semester but rescheduled because of a snow day, according to Rory Mattar, C-AHS principal.
Thomas was brought in to give an academic pep talk as part of a half-day event accompanied by activity sessions designed to set a tone and encourage students to live up to their full potential despite obstacles many of them face daily such as crime, poverty and despair.
Thomas, aka The Hip Hop Preacher, has gone from his delinquent beginnings to become a college graduate, author and electrifying motivational speaker whose services are now sought worldwide.
His self-published book,”The Secret to Success’ is available on his website www.etinspires.com and other online book sellers.
His professional services include educational consulting at primary and secondary schools, executive coaching at Fortune 500 companies and athletic development at professional, college and high school levels.
Thomas career as a motivational speaker began at Michigan State University where he worked as a student advisor and founded The Advantage Program to counsel disadvantaged students on what it takes to be successful.
While speaking at C-AHS, Thomas wore youthful Nike sneakers, a New Era baseball cap, jeans and a T-shirt imprinted with the slogan, “When you wanna succeed as bad as you want to breathe.”
The shirt slogan referenced one of many motivational stories Thomas tells. Many of his talks have been recorded and are available on www.youtube.com which have received glowing reviews and helped build Thomas a global following.
He’s been dubbed the Hip Hop Preacher because he uses examples from pop culture. His high-energy presentation at C-AHS included examples from his own life, inspirational lyrics from rap songs and current events such as the work ethics exhibited by NFL players preparing for last Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Thomas said he dropped out of high school because he wasn’t motivated.
“When I was old enough to leave school, I left,’’ he said. “I wasn’t dumb, I just didn’t have a purpose.
“My teachers didn’t expect nothing of me and I didn’t expect nothing of me either. Now I travel the world.”
Drawing from his own experience, Thomas advised C-AHS students to “always bring your A game.’’
He reinforced his point by having them repeat after him: “What we are to be, we are now becoming.”
He was joined at the C-AHS event by Walter Bivens, an MSU economics major who now runs the Advantage program at MSU.
After the pep talk, C-AHS students engaged in four activities including one in which each student filled out their own “why” worksheet stating a motivation for them to stay in school and achieve.
“There is a message in each activity,’’ said assistant Jeff Dompreh to the students. “Don’t get too caught up in the fun part of it.”
He also said that Thomas’ message to “always bring your A game” is the same one CA teachers try to instill every day.
Thomas invited students to stay in touch with him on his Twitter page or by visiting his website at www.etinspires.com.