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His unique path from homeless teenager to Motlow State graduate
by Buddy Bumpus, Staff Writer
His youthful appearance and clean-cut style give the casual observer the impression that Lebron Hill is much like many other Motlow State Community College sophomore students. They missed out on the Tennessee Promise scholarship by a year, but through other scholarships or help from their families, or maybe even a Pell grant or a part-time job, many attend college without the burden or responsibility of paying for it.
Without campus dormitories or housing facilities, most Motlow students live with their families and enjoy the benefits that go along with that. One of the primary reasons that students choose Motlow is the convenience of living at home and having a short drive to attend college. They save money and time before graduating and moving to a four-year university.
As with any situation though, there are exceptions; those to whom life deals a different hand, forcing them to take a unique path. Lebron Hill is one of those exceptions, and his story is quite unique.
From being a homeless 18 year-old without a car and without a job, to becoming a successful, self-supporting 21 year-old sophomore at the Moore County campus who is on track to graduate with his degree in May, Hill has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time.
When Lebron first became a student at Motlow he was living at a local shelter for the homeless, where just a few months earlier he found himself without a high school diploma, without any income, and without a family to support him.
"I chose to use my situation as motivation to get out of the shelter," says Hill. "I wanted more than what was just being given to me." Although he admits during that time he often experienced anger and depression, he knew he wanted to build a better life for himself and he began to take the necessary actions to start that process.
Earning his General Educational Development (GED©) diploma was the first step for Lebron. Throughout the process of obtaining this important milestone, as well as going forward, one individual stood out in support of him - Pastor Randy Davis, whom Lebron gives much credit to for his accomplishments. It was Pastor Randy, who Lebron affectionately refers to as his "dad," that believed in Lebron and encouraged him to enroll at Motlow while he still lived at the shelter. Although Lebron was intent on leaving the area to attend school in Nashville to get away from his problems, Hill says, "My pastor taught me it is better to face your issues than run away from them, so that's why I enrolled at Motlow."
During his stay at the shelter Lebron accomplished additional goals, including getting his driver's license, taking on two jobs, and eventually earning enough money to pay for a car and his own apartment. It wasn't easy, and at times thoughts of self-doubt and negative emotions occurred, but through it all he stayed extremely determined to improve his life. And improve it he did.
"If I had to use one word to describe Lebron," said Rhonda Cotham, director of student success at Motlow, "it would be 'driven'. He is absolutely very motivated, and will not be denied his goal of graduating from Motlow with his associate degree in mass communications.
"Such confidence was not always the case with Lebron," added Cotham. "Early on he was shy, quiet, and not sure of himself. However, I never doubted for one minute that he would be successful as a student. From the beginning he showed me he had the necessary desire."
As a Motlow student, Hill has matured and benefitted from not only classroom work, but also from the support of faculty and staff outside of class through their coaching and mentoring. "After coming to Motlow," Hill says, "I realized that the people here really do care for you, and will talk with you and will help you, as long as you let them."
After completing his degree at Motlow, Lebron intends to transfer to either Middle Tennessee State University or Lipscomb University to complete his four-year degree. From there his goal is to begin a career as a journalist, with his dream job working as a reporter for either CNN or Rolling Stone magazine.
An additional goal is to create a shelter for young homeless adults, because, according to him, "Giving back is the best way to say 'thank you' for all you have been given." Lebron now volunteers his time at the shelter where he stayed, and is happy to share his story when appropriate.
Hill has gained self-confidence and personal growth by openly sharing his story with others, and it is his hope that from sharing it, others may benefit.
Asked what he would say to someone facing the same challenges he has faced, Lebron thought for several moments, then shared, "I would tell them that God works. That sometimes you don't always get the answer immediately, but if you do the right things, then it happens. It may not hit you right then, but if you stick to your values and your plan, it happens." He added, "Look to see the good, even through the pain and bad things. When you realize life really is what you make it, then you can do anything."
Wise words from a young man who has come a long way in life.