I love to travel! It’s has been a constant during most of my life. I remember my father taking me with him to certain trips when he taught college courses at different universities. I loved being with him and all of the interactions with people when going through airports, hotels, rental car spots, and restaurants.

I was in Columbus Ohio recently to attend a birthday party. As I was driving the rental car back to National at the airport, this guy was checking in the cars. He was about as tall as I am and he recognized me pretty quickly. It was a common conversation I have experienced hundreds of times over the years since playing with the Flyin’ Illini and covering college basketball on TV.

This guy went on to tell me how he played basketball at Virginia State. He went on to say how he really enjoyed his time there and how much fun it was to play college basketball.

He then explained to me that he did not graduate. He said he was partying too much and lost his focus while being in school. He didn’t elaborate on how it happened but he had a certain resignation that told me he now understands what a big mistake it was not to finish. The look on his face as his mind went back to his college days and why he didn’t finish were self-explanatory.

As I strive to make a difference in the lives of young people I can’t help but think about how many times I’ve heard this story. My heart aches every time I hear of a guy that did the hard work of graduating high school and getting a scholarship but dropping the ball in the 11th hour! So close to a college degree that would set him up for career success.

What would his life look like right now? Would his self-esteem be better? Would he be in a career that is better suited for his personality? Would he have a family that would be proud of him? All of these questions come to mind when wondering about his current situation.

“To whom much is given, much is expected”. I was given a lot from my parents, brother, sister, and those around me as I grew up in Carbondale. The love and support I received from all of them I know is a big reason why I feel like I’ve accomplished some good things. There is plenty more left to do.

I would encourage those of you reading this to give back in your own way. If you can identify a youngster that can benefit from your presence please do so. Let’s all start in our corners to improve the lives of ones less fortunate than us. Our young people are precious, and each one deserves a chance to be great!

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