A former participant in the summer youth program hosted by the Union Housing Authority came back on Wednesday to share his story with current participants.
Union native Marcus Porter teaches grades 6-8 in Spartanburg County School District 3. He is a former track and field coach, and he currently coaches the wide receivers on Broome High School’s football team. He has an associate’s degree from USC Union, a bachelor’s degree from USC Upstate and a master’s degree from the University of West Alabama.
His story is one of overcoming adversity and refusing to succumb to the peer pressure of those around him, and he shared that story with local children who live in the same area in which he grew up. He spoke to the children Wednesday morning in the Horseshoe Circle Community Building.
“Why am I here today?” Porter rhetorically asked. “Twenty-five years ago, I was sitting right where you are.”
He then announced his topic of discussion for the day — “I can do anything.” Porter explained to the children that he believes anything can be achieved with “the three Ps,” prayer, patience and perseverance.
“I can remember someone telling me that I would never be anything,” Porter said. “When someone tells you that, don’t lash out. Show them.”
Porter asked the children where they lived, naming various areas and streets around the community.
“I lived in all those places,” he said. “I went to every school in Union except Buffalo. My childhood was like some of yours. It wasn’t steady. I was always moving. I might have a parent on drugs over here, or someone going to jail over there.”
Porter said the first P — prayer — is what kept him from lashing out or falling into the same routine as many of his peers.
“I didn’t have somebody sitting there saying, ‘Do your homework,’” he said. “Something inside me just said I wanted to be different from the next dude.”
Porter asked the children if they had ever seen anyone sell drugs, and a room full of little hands went up.
“And have you seen the drug dealers with a big wad of money?” he asked. “You can get that same money when you work. You can buy the same cars and the same houses. I used the drug dealers I saw as an example of what not to do. Anything you get overnight will leave overnight.”
Porter said that his idea of “cool” was never someone with sagging pants or someone on drugs who walked around like a zombie.
“I thought being smart was cool,” he said. “Do you pick on smart people in school? Guess what. Those people will be your boss. You will be asking those people for a job one day. OR, you can be the cool guy. You can do your work. You can be the boss.”
Porter also talked to the children about the importance of being patient. He asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up, and they gave answers including teacher, doctor and NBA superstar.
Porter explained that the odds of making it to the NBA or NFL are extremely slim and went on to talk about what those athletes do to get there.
“NBA players wake up, work out and play ball,” he said. “They live basketball. They breathe basketball. That’s what you have to do.”
Porter then discussed perseverance.
“A lot of people quit,” he said. “Quitting is the easiest thing to do, but I will never quit or be denied.”
Porter talked about goals, explaining to the children that when he was in 8th grade and the Yellow Jackets won the state championship, he knew he wanted to win the championship before he graduated. He then passed around his state championship ring.
He told the children that from the time he was in 6th grade until his junior year in high school, he didn’t have hot water. He told them to imagine taking a cold shower on a cold December morning.
“I used to turn that water on and brace myself,” he said. “But I was quarterback at Union High School. I persevered through it. I knew I had to be a football player by day and then go home and raise myself at night. I wanted to be somebody who could do what he wanted and make it look good. I wanted to be an honors student. I did that.”
Porter said that some students tend to forget the primary goal of going to school.
“What do you want to get after 12 years? A diploma,” he said. “All you have to do is go to school, go to class, listen, do your homework and you’ll get it.”
Porter said he never heard while growing up what a great feeling it was to go to college.
“College takes your brain and stretches it like a rubber band,” he said. “Some things you get mad at, you won’t get mad at anymore. You get exposed to different things.”
He told the children to sit at the front of the class when they start school, letting the teacher know that they are ready to learn and aren’t sleeping, eating, texting, etc.
“Good people have it harder than bad people,” he said. “You’re gonna hear ‘you think you’re better than sombody.’ No. I just want to be different. I want to be me.”
“Success does not come overnight,” he said. “You all will fail. Everybody fails, but you have to keep trying. Follow your goals.”
The summer program held by the Union Housing Authority takes place every day from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and consists of 86 children ages 4-15. The program is led by Carolyn Rutherford of the Union Housing Authority, and other volunteer leaders include Yashica Uzokwe, Clarissa Hughes, Taylun Wallace, Sharon Smith, Angela Carter, Cierra Johnson, Jessica Rice and Taurean Houston.
“We try to keep them entertained and active all day long,” Rutherford said.
The day begins with a devotion, and some of the children then go to Union County Carnegie Library. An adolescent class is held for the older participants. The youth go to the YMCA to swim on Thursdays, and they play football and basketball or go to the community playground on other days. They have also taken trips to Foster Park to feed the ducks or walk on the nature trail.
“The main thing I teach them is responsibility and to be respectful at all times,” Rutherford said, mentioning that she also stresses the importance of reading and following their dreams no matter what.
“It’s not where you come from, but where you’re going. I know you’re put down when you’re from the projects, but you can be what you want to be.”