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Jerome Preston  |  Eugene W. Hairston, Jr.  |  Courtenay Valentine


Jerome Preston

Faith, Talent, Academics, Desire, Dedication, Commitment, Focus, Practice, Coaching, Community.  These qualities are often associated with athletes in general.  Surveying the landscape, it takes this and so much more to become a division I student athlete.    

There are thousands of  student athletes at the recreation and high school levels.  When you move into collegiate athletics, that number is decreased tremendously.  When you narrow it down even more, to the 105 division I athletic programs in this country, that number is decreased even more significantly.

Many athletes begin their early childhood playing recreation sports.  There's not a lot expected of them except to show up and they are instantly part of the team. As you ascend the ranks of athletics, more is expected of the student athlete and that's where they lose interest, feel they can no longer compete, or choose an entirely different path.

Becoming a division I student athlete is not easy.  It takes so much to make it to that level, many often fall short.  How many times have you seen a high school ball player that you know without a doubt is going to go pro, disappear from the sports scene all together?  You see them in the community after graduation or in some sort of trouble and wonder what happened.  There are many different things that happen because of the physical and mental demands on student athletes.  If you make it to the division I level in any sport, you have done what 1 in 1000 students get the chance to do.  You have qualified academically, you have proven that you are good enough to compete at that level, and have been able to balance your social life and all the other rigors this world dishes out.  It is very competitive and it is NOT EASY. 

People often criticize student athletes for wanting to get a stipend to do things like their laundry or to go out to dinner from time to time.  Most major college sports programs make an exorbitant amount of money on ticket sales, concessions, licensed team apparel, and alumni contributions.  There should be a monthly stipend, above and beyond the athletic scholarship, for ALL D-I student athletes.  I'm not saying pay for play, but $200 to $300 monthly per athlete to realize the "normal" comforts of college life.  Don’t get this confused, I'm simply making an observation based on reality, that something needs to change within the NCAA.  The opportunity to get a free education is VERY important, but it's not as free as you think.

Think for just a moment, the difference in the daily life of an ordinary college student and that of a student athlete at the division I level.  The ordinary college student is responsible for attending class, doing projects, school labs, and homework.  Most take between 15 to 18 credit hours per semester to graduate in four years.  This amounts to 6 to 8 hours of classroom time per week and another 10 to 12 hours of studying depending upon their major.  This amounts to 20 hours per week for actual classroom and study time. (4 hours per day) 

For the Division I student athlete, take that same scenario and add 10 hours per week practice time, 3 hours per week lifting weights, 8 hours of film study, 3 hours for the game and additional time for press conferences, treatment for injuries, and anything else that may arise that needs your attention.  That’s at least 25 additional hours per week!!  45 hours per week minimum a D-I student athlete has to endure in order to maintain.  Another way to look at it is, they work a 40 hour work week and 5 hours overtime at minimum for their college experience during their respective season.

All the qualities I mentioned at the opening have to come in play in order for a student athlete to excel at the Division I level.

Many fail, many succeed. The journey is long and tough, but the payoff is a feeling you can't really explain.  To all the D-I and former D-I student athletes, you know exactly what I mean.  To the future D-I student athletes, the road is long and tough and if you equip yourself with the right mind frame, you too will know that unexplainable feeling of accomplishment.  Stay focused on your goals and use the opportunity to separate yourself from the pack.

It's not easy, but well worth it!!


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Eugene W. Hairston Jr.


Fredrick Douglass, William E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Paul Dunbar, Robert C. Weaver, and Dr. Cornel West hungered for knowledge. Today, some say to be educated is to “act white”, yet education is what broke social and economic barriers for the men you see above. Education was revolutionary five decades ago, when blacks changed their circumstances by demonstrating to the government that they, just as their fellow citizens, were protected by the United States Constitution. They proved that they were entitled to all the freedoms and guarantees of this great land: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They embraced their rights and tried to make a better life than their parents. But presently, single-parent households, unemployment, and lack of empowerment are the most common plagues of our advancement. How disheartening, right? Wrong! How did this happen? Whom should you blame? The former is complex, yet the latter is simple-- yourself.

Let’s make sense; I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am a Classical Liberal. My belief is that you matter, and that you have the freedom to choose! I believe you have the freedom to choose between getting high or going to school. I believe that you have the right to pursue your happiness even if that means dealing drugs, having unprotected sex, or reading a book. Ridiculous statements, right? No! You have choices, and the choices you make every day impact your life either positively or negatively. I strongly believe that my paycheck should not pay for another's bad choices. For example, the twenty-eight year old, unemployed, single mother with four kids has made choices in her life that put her where she is today. Your taxes will pay for her IPhone 5, the XBOX for her kids, and maybe more alcohol and drugs to ease her mind from troubles. I would like to imagine that my example illustrates few people, yet the numbers show otherwise.

Welfare spending increased significantly under President George W. Bush and has exploded under President Barack Obama. In fact, since President Obama took office, federal welfare spending has increased by “41 percent, more than $193 billion per year. More than 46 million Americans continue to live in poverty. Despite nearly $15 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, the poverty rate is perilously close to where we began more than 40 years ago (Tanner, 2).” Former President George W. Bush did not put you in the “poor house” and President Barack H. Obama cannot get you out. Let’s face the facts: the African-American community has historically been disenfranchised, and has historically been deemed inferior to society. In short, we as a people have lost our way; consequently, “11 million African-Americans live below the poverty line (Garcia, 1).”

President Barack H. Obama is a good person, and he should be every little girl's and boy's aspiration. However, instead of “Hope and Change,” his 2008 campaign slogan should have been “change who you are”! You, the seventh grade boy who lives in poverty with a single parent, you can wake up tomorrow, walk out of that door, go to school and make an effort in science class to understand photosynthesis. You, the tenth grade girl, could come to class prepared with the necessary reading and work accomplished to pass the Western Civilization test. Finally, you the freshman in college could get a head start on that Money and Banking mid-term by studying section by section leading up to the test. That’s the real change you should make. I had choices in life at Hampden-Sydney College. I could have smoked weed every day and not attended classes but the consequence is that I would have not graduated. I could have snorted cocaine with my friends, and faced a consequence of the D.E.A hauling me to jail when there was a drug raid in 2007. But I chose not to indulge in those vices, and today I am better off as an employed black man.

Parents, you are the foundation for your child’s growth in life. When your son or daughter misbehaves in school, I’d advise you to direct your attention to the child, not the administration or teacher. By blaming the teacher, you are crippling the child’s growth. Our children can no longer afford to eat at the table of hypocrisy and illusion. Teach your kids how to bend and not break under pressure, for you are their guide when their feet walk off course. If you sow the right values in your child, they will never be uprooted.

You have a choice to be disenfranchised or deemed inferior by society. But, tomorrow, you also have a choice to go into your class or job and exercise every effort to advance to the next level. But, if you fail, don’t blame your white, black, orange, green, or pink teacher/ boss--blame yourself. Whatever environment you may live in, don't ask the Lord to guide your steps if you aren't willing to move your feet. President Barack H. Obama has been re-elected, and if you are still unemployed, start making the right choices, and stop doing the same thing and expecting different results—that's the definition of insanity.


1. Michael Tanner., The American Welfare State How We Spend Nearly $1 Trillion a Year Fighting Poverty—and Fail: using data from the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance; Katherine Bradley, “Expanding the Failed War on Poverty,” Heritage Foundation, March 21, 2010,


2. Tonya Garcia.,  Census Shows 27.6 Percent Of Black Americans Live in Poverty: September 13th, 2012 -    Read more at

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Courtenay Valentine


In my life journeys, I have had the most momentous inspirational experiences whether it be through business interactions, spiritual connections or personal relations. These experiences have blessed me with a colorful life full of adventure and life altering experiences. I come from a small town, which shaped, molded and prepared me to be a productive person in society. Good morals, values and a primed spiritual foundation built this shell of a person inside out, which leads me to a poignant clause; If it had not been for this small town of inspiring people, I would not be here today to write a mere sentence for you. My most influential inspirations lie within the blessing of a wonderful family, life- long friends, an outstanding education, remarkable coaches, and sincere religious leaders; all supplied in a small rural area of Martinsville, Virginia.

            My family taught me love, respect, self respect, loyalty, great work ethics, generosity, and community service.  As a healthcare professional, I have encountered a rainbow of people with many different cultures; some good and some, “not so good”. When I encounter, the “not so good”, I always reflect on my rearing. I can honestly say that it influences my choices on how to treat people no matter what life’s circumstances may be at any given time.  

The “circle” of friends that are closest to my heart are my childhood friends, former high school basketball teammates and relatives. Although I do not get to visit home often, I reflect daily on my circle of friends, remembering the love, camaraderie, sisterhood, and unique closeness that allows us to pick up right where we left off when in each other’s presence again. I can even say that the schools of opposition consisted of my close friends, as well. How could one not be inspired from the gift of such incredible friendships?

I attended George Washington Carver High School, Samuel H. Hairston School, and Sanville elementary school; all of which were Henry County Schools. Ironically, my profession is in higher education now as a Radiation Therapy Program Director/Instructor which is an Allied Health major. As I entered the field of education, I did so reluctantly based on the generation gap and my encounters with them. So, I actually had a conversation with myself and God, asking, “God, what is it that you want me to do as I sit here with judgment yet without a will to influence the generation gap?” Well, that was a no brainer and I could hear Mrs. America Foster, Mrs. Sallie Mae Morrison, Mrs. Ramsey, Coach Copenhaver, Chief Millner, Ms. Gwen Reynolds and a slew of other people saying, “So, what are you going to do about it?” In that instance, I believed that I could make a difference and be influential in inspiring young health professionals to acquire the true essence and mentality of health “care”. This simply means that I found myself bringing the principles that I learned along the way, into my own classroom and program.

As far as inspirational leaders are concerned; I thank my mother, father, grandmother, great aunts, aunts, uncles, godparents, god sister, god brother, ministers, and mentors for all of the devotion, time, persistence, and motivation. My father, uncle Peter and aunt Wanda pushed me with my musical talents. I emphasize the subject of music because it influenced my connection with God. It has also influenced my ministry of love and acceptance. Though, I could go on and on about the importance of Love and acceptance; I will leave that one for next time we meet pen to paper.

I encourage all of you to reflect on every corner of your life and truly realize just how good God has been to you. Can you identify the positivity based on the influences of your past though bet it good or “not so good”?  I challenge you today to do so…………and watch how you begin to grow.

I love where I am from and all of the people that encompass my life; past and present. How about you?


Courtenay Valentine M.B.A., B.S., RT (T)

Radiation Therapy -Program Director

Cambridge Institute of Allied Health (Delray Beach Campus)

Hometown Girl of Martinsville, Virginia!

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