Jefferson Award Winner Shows At-Risk Youth The Path To Entrepreneurship

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Jefferson Award winner Michael Parker (CBS)

Jefferson Award winner Michael Parker (CBS)

SAN PABLO (CBS 5) – He grew up with many obstacles that could left him in trouble on the streets. But in the end, an East Bay man beat the odds to become an entrepreneur. And now, he’s helping other East Bay young people strive for their own success. That’s why Michael Parker has been honored with this week’s Jefferson Award.

As a college freshman, 22-year-old Patrick Hayes struggled with his future plans. So he turned to Michael Parker for life-changing counsel.

“You have to go out there and get it for yourself,” Hayes reported he learned from Parker. “Just go get it. He’s like, ‘You have to have the eye of the tiger.'”

Michael Parker founded the nonprofit, “lifeskills 411“, in San Pablo.

“I want other people to feel the joy that I felt when I discovered that I could actually be different than the road I was on,” he explained.

From a class on managing emotions to training and mentorship programs, lifeskills 411 introduces students to the corporate world. Teens through young adults who learn about finance, health, technology and careers can beat the odds like Parker did.

“When in their own mind they’ve created and played out their future and they only see that future in one way, then they’ve been robbed!” Parker said adamantly.

Parker founded lifeskills six years ago, after reflecting on his own success. He’d been handpicked by Toyota’s president to leap onto the fast-track in management. But he didn’t start out that way. He was a child with an uncertain future.

“I remember being at home in Richmond, in fear of my safety, wondering how my mother was going to get over certain struggles she was having with an abusive relationship, and being behind in my education,” he said.

He credits his godparents for showing him he could create a better life:

“That was the beginning of an open door where a different Michael E. Parker could emerge.”

Parker graduated from college, and eventually became an entrepreneur. And now, through his nonprofit, he’s sharing the “4-1-1″ of his success with students like Patrick, who’s now a lifeskills mentor and marketing employee.

21-year-old lifeskills graduate Yemisi Harrison is an auditor at KPMG accounting.

“As a result of lifeskills, I’m more determined to achieve success and also determined to help others achieve success,” Harrison said.

Lifeskills’ Executive Director Terry Fulton described Parker as a mentor to students since they first became friends as teenagers.

“It’s just amazing the connection he makes with people,” Parker said. “That’s his greatest asset.”

Parker said he simply wants to inspire kids to reach their potential.

“Now they have a chance to become something great,” Parker said. “If I can just do that as many times as possible in my life, I’ll be a very happy person.”

So for equipping thousands of East Bay young people with the life skills to grow successful careers, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Michael Parker.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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