Friday, November 14, 2014

A model for beating the odds

     Kylan Robertson has big plans for the future. “I hope to be an NBA player and an NBA game designer some day,” the 12-year-old said. “I also want to be a multi-millionaire. But it would be nice to be a billionaire.”
     For a sixth-grader, Kylan seems to know what he wants – perhaps because Paul Lamar Hunter had assured Kylan and his schoolmates at St. Joseph Catholic School on Nov. 6 that their dreams could come true after relaying his personal story of triumph over adversity.
     The 19th child of his mother’s 21 natural children, Hunter recounted his story about growing up poor, neglected and abused in a crowded household in Racine, Wis., and beating the odds to become the first of his mother’s children – in addition to her 63 grandchildren and 61 great grandchildren – to earn a college degree.
Paul Lamar Hunter encourages the students at St. Joseph
Catholic School to pursue their goals, even if they're struggling
to survive dysfunction in the home. (Photo: Wiley Henry)
     The narrative drew the students to Hunter and his dogged determination to overcome his harrowing circumstances, which he underscores in his autobiography, “No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child.” (Published by Life to Legacy, LLC; 184 pp.) 

     The book traces the author’s meandering journey from a dysfunctional childhood to his graduation in 2012 from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
     “If I can live my dream, you can live your dream,” said Hunter, 44, encouraging the students to pursue their goal in spite of family dynamics or an inauspicious environment. For example: His mother, relentlessly dismissive, finished third-grade and “discouraged education.”
     “She told me that I’d never amount to anything,” said Hunter, which motivated him to debunk his mother’s assessment of her children by pursuing and eventually earning his college degree. “She didn’t believe in an education.”
     Hunter implored the students not to give up. He stressed three points, the catalyst for his own success: 1) change your behavior; 2) surround yourself with positive men and women; and 3) stay hungry to learn.
     Following Hunter’s talk, Kylan asked if he was nervous about going to college. The other students were just as inquisitive. Xavier Randle, 11, asked about the price of the book. “I want to write a book, too,” the sixth-grader said.
     “Did you have to share anything with your brothers?” Kimberly Smith, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, asked Hunter, the writer, entrepreneur and businessman.
Paul Lamar Hunter
     “It was very difficult, because we had a lack of clothes, food. We were living with a detached mother. She wasn’t there for us emotionally and physically,” said Hunter, noting that he was close to his nine brothers and 11 sisters. Three are deceased.
     Hunter’s terse criticism of his mother stems from his belief that the love, attention and presence that the Hunter household needed was directed instead to The Love and Charity Homeless Shelter that his mother founded in Racine.
     She had published her own book – “Love and Charity, The Life and Story of Louise Hunter, and The Love and Charity Homeless Shelter” – as a testament of her success years before her son penned his own story.
     Hunter’s father was an assembly line worker, but died in a car accident when he was 8 years old. “If it wasn’t for my older siblings, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Hunter, an Austin, Texas, resident and father of four.
     Kimberly was so inspired by Hunter’s story that she’d decided henceforward to attend college. “I want to become a veterinarian,” she said.
     Hunter rolled out a few catchphrases to drive home the point that one can overcome his/her obstacles with faith and determination: “I didn’t let my past dictate my future; it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going; turn your setbacks into opportunities.”
     Jovan Green, who teaches fourth, fifth and sixth-grade social studies and science, characterized Hunter’s survival as a “perfect example” that anything is possible. “It’s good to hear it first-hand than to hear it from someone on the outside.”
     Leslie Harden, St. Joseph’s principal, added, “Our students need to hear from people who’ve lived and experienced hunger, loneliness…the things they experience in their own home. They need to know that there’s a way out and that they can be successful.
     “A mentor, or role model, in the flesh is so important so they know it’s possible for them to overcome their own struggles,” Harden said. “It was important for Mr. Hunter to be here. He had a great message.”
     “No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child” can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel or online at

Working with the 14th child…
     Paul Lamar Hunter’s visit to St. Joseph Catholic School is just one of several scheduled during his six-month stay in Memphis while working with his brother, the Rev. Larry Hunter – his mother’s 14th child – who operates the non-profit Sober House Homeless Mission at 791 Crillion Dr. Proceeds from Hunter’s book, or from his speaking engagements, will be used to help fund the homeless mission. The website address is

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