COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Few people may guess that the President of Lincoln University was born in an unknown, low-income apartment home in Columbus, Ga., but Dr. Kevin Rome's humble beginnings are the backdrop for an inspiring address he gave at Mildred Terry Library on Nov. 2, 2013.
Rome grew-up in a public housing community called Farley Homes. He was raised by a single parent, and attended several Muscogee County schools. He returned to Columbus with a message for young black students who are currently growing-up in the same environment.
"Your situation cannot determine your opportunity," says Rome. "The more challenging your circumstance, the greater room you have to achieve success."
Rome is young for a university president, and says he was not necessarily smarter than the other kids he went to school with. He just worked harder and gained better opportunities. He was placed in classes that had high academic expectations, rather than classes with no expectations for the students at all.
"It happens very early in life that we're separated based on some exam, some decision on how it happens, but once you're trapped in that area, most likely, you never have an opportunity to rise above that situation," said Rome as the crowd responded in agreement.
Still, Rome is convinced there is no reason why anyone cannot become a successful, contributing member of society. "So many times I could have quit," he said. "Life will give you many excuses to quit. You have to have faith."
To young people, Rome advised them not to own anyone else's issues when others cannot be supportive because they are being surpassed. "People are discouraging because of their own issues," he said.
Rome also addressed parents. He said parents need to get involved with their children's education, know what they are learning in school, and raise the expectation for their children's academic performance. He also said they need to be encouraging and supportive when children express interests and goals.
To everyone, young and old, Rome emphasized the importance working hard, and having faith that things will work out in their favor.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson was also present for the event, and presented Rome with a key to the city of Columbus. She expressed hope that stories like Rome's will no longer be the exception, but become a normal occurrence.