In his raw, unapologetic, unabashed style, world renowned motivational speaker and author Dr. Eric Thomas brought an inspiring, authentic message of success and hard work to more than 300 students at B.E.S.T. Academy and Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) on Thursday, Aug. 30. Sponsored by 100 Black Men of Atlanta Inc., the visit brought Dr. Thomas, a former high school dropout turned successful speaker and author, to B.E.S.T. Academy and CSKYWLA for the first time.
During his 45-minute speech, Dr. Thomas shared his personal journey of overcoming obstacles such as growing up without a father, dropping out of high school, and struggling with hardship and failure. Delivering a message of tough love, he encouraged students to stay in school, honor their parents, pursue success, and strive for academic excellence.
Sponsored by 100 Black Men of Atlanta Inc., the visit brought Dr. Thomas, a Detroit native, to B.E.S.T. Academy and CSKYWLA for the first time.
“I knew bringing him here would be a gift to the body of B.E.S.T. Academy,” said Anthony Flynn, executive director of 100 Black Men of Atlanta, who counts Dr. Thomas as a close friend and mentor. “B.E.S.T. Academy is the oasis for which 100 Black Men of Atlanta invests. Because this is our community, we wanted to give B.E.S.T, Academy the treat of having Dr. Thomas invest as well, because he comes from a very similar background as this demographic of students. I knew that his story would resonate with this demographic.”
While addressing students in his trademark no-nonsense style, Dr. Thomas asked for those who didn’t live with their biological fathers to raise their hands. Nearly 90 percent of the students raised their hands. Almost half raised their hands when asked whether someone in their families had dropped out of high school.
Sharing his personal story, Dr. Thomas told students they’re being set up for failure, but shared they could find success by listening to his wisdom and being determined to excel in school and turn their lives around.
“You don’t know, that you don’t know, that you don’t know,” he told students. “It’s a set up … You’re being set up and you don’t even know it. Some of you are going to take what I’m telling you to heart now, and some of you are going to take it later. But, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.”
“Life is a choice,” continued Dr. Thomas, who brought his son, Jalin, and mentee, Jeremy Anderson, along to share their testimonies of resilience. “Some of you think you’re all that, but you’re really weak because you ain’t got a brain of your own. You don’t do what you want to do. You do what everybody else is doing. You talk like you tough … you talk like you strong, but you ain’t got your own mindset. You don’t make your own decisions.”
Dr. Thomas culminated his speech by telling students to excel in life, attend college, and make their parents proud. He encouraged them to study their history, tap into their “A-game” with boundless determination, and think about their parents rather than themselves.
“I can … I will … I must …” he shouted, encouraging students to repeat his famous mantra. “I need you to bring your A-game by making a commitment, doing your homework, and putting forth your best effort.”
Ultimately, Dr. Thomas said his goal was to show students how they can experience the American dream through hard work and education.
“There is an economic gap and a lifestyle gap, and a lot of our kids aren’t experiencing the American dream,” Dr. Thomas said. “It doesn’t make America great if you aren’t experiencing the American dream. And, you don’t stand a chance to experience the dream or break the cycle without an education. I don’t mean degrees – I mean knowledge. It starts with valuing school and not wasting time. I’m telling young people to invest it and get the most out of it.”
“It was phenomenal” said Ramon Singer, 100 Black Men of Atlanta program director and B.E.S.T. Academy school liaison. “We want to be able to expose our young people to someone that inspires hope across the world. As many know, the young people in this zip code, 30318, face a lot of challenges. Any time we have the opportunity to bring someone of Dr. Thomas’ stature here, it’s important.”