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NewsMonday, August 8, 2011
Tyrone Flowers, who was honored as one of the National TRIO Achievers in 2009, told his story recently to a group of Upward Bound students at Tri-County Technical College's 31st annual awards banquet.
Upward Bound Program Gives You Direction, Higher M-Pact Founder Tyrone Flowers Tells Students
CONTACT: DR. THWANDA DAVIDSON, 646-1590
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8/8/2011
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, Tyrone Flowers was ashamed of his past and uncertain of his future.
Raised by his loving grandmother along with 12 other children in a two-bedroom house, every day had its challenges, including struggling to find one meal a day, living without electricity and sleeping in his clothes.
During his youth, his grandmother fell ill and he was removed from the home and put into foster care, where he says he was abused physically, mentally and emotionally.
He was placed in three different foster homes, residential treatment facilities, eight different group homes and juvenile reformatory school. In a state hospital, he was tested for schizophrenia and retardation. He was even sent to the largest youth center in state of Missouri.
"I used to ask, 'why me?' My father was murdered, my mother didn't want me. I thought there were no answers. It was just part of my reality," said Flowers, founder of Higher M-Pact, a community-based organization whose focus is to mentor, develop and restore hope in high-risk youth and their families.
Flowers, who was honored as one of the National TRIO Achievers in 2009, told his story recently to a group of Upward Bound students at Tri-County Technical College's 31st annual awards banquet.
Upward Bound is designed to help high school students bridge the gap between secondary school and college and to provide them with financial and academic resources to prepare for postsecondary education. The Upward Bound project, sponsored by Tri-County, serves 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders from Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties and provides high school students with services year-round through its academic and summer bridge components.
"I've been in padded rooms and straight jackets. But I had a vision of wanting to do better," said Flowers, a first-generation college student who travels around the country telling his story.
"I wanted to be successful but I didn't know what it felt like or looked like," he said.
Flowers was offered a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Missouri-Columbia, but instead turned it down and opted for the Army. "I wanted three meals a day. I was used to people telling me what to do," he said.
One day, a basketball teammate and he argued. The teammate pulled out a 357 magnum and shot him three times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down with limited use of his left arm and in a wheelchair for life. "I had no role models and no plan B," he said. "I knew I could survive, but I wanted to live. It was then I made one of the best decisions in my life."
He enrolled at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City and met a TRiO counselor who changed his life. TRiO programs are designed to provide educational opportunities for eligible participants regardless of race, ethnic background or economic circumstances.
"TRiO showed me how, showed me the process. TRiO game me the picture of what I could be. Programs like Upward Bound give you direction," he said.
"A counselor helped me to get a scholarship to the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU). She believed in me. It was the first time in my life I had my own room - in a dorm," he remembered.
As a senior at MU, Tyrone completed a practicum at the McCune School for Boys, the same facility he had been incarcerated in years ago. "That is when I decided to go to law school," Flowers said.
He graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology and a minor in psychology. He went on to receive a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law.
He didn't want to practice traditional law; instead, he decided to develop community programs for adolescents just coming out of the juvenile justice system.
"Let your profession line up with your passion," he told the students. "I'd rather be rolling in a wheelchair with a vision than walking aimlessly," he said.
Higher M-Pact was founded in 1993, incorporated in 1998 and formally launched full-time in 2003.
Flowers has been featured in People magazine and Jet magazine and has been invited to the White House three times. He was also honored by MU and the Missouri Community College Association Presidents and Chancellors Council at a recognition ceremony for distinguished and successful alumni.
At Tri-County's banquet, students received plaques for outstanding achievement and most improvement in assessment, economics and government, English, math, science and Spanish.