By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
Motivating Youth Co. began in Vernon King Jr.'s dorm room at Fort Hays State University five years ago. Today, King has reached more than 150,000 people across the U.S., and he is starting his Doin' Big Things tour -- which began Tuesday at FHSU.
Growing up in Dallas at one of the largest high schools in the nation, King fell through the cracks of the public school system and almost was kicked out of the school district. His freshman year in high school, after being expelled from Duncanville High School and the Summit Alternative School, he was on the verge of expulsion from the district when he presented a 10-page paper to his principal pleading to be readmitted.
"(The principal) said to me, 'When I was your age, someone gave me a second chance, and I'm going to give you a second chance -- but only if you get this in your head. Vernon, everyone in this school knows you.'
"My school served about 5,000 to 6,000 people per day. He said, 'You're a leader, but the effect you have on people doesn't match up with the purpose you have on this earth.' "
The principal said King's purpose is to influence people, but he's doing it through causing trouble as opposed to finding inspiration.
"He asked me, 'Why are you misusing your value?' " King said.
After being accepted back into Duncanville, King was elected senior class president and spoke to various elementary schools throughout the community. He started Motivating Youth Organization with six friends.
"We just went around to classrooms and talked to kids," King said. "That gave me the idea to start this company. Just talking to classrooms and seeing the inspiration I brought to those students when I looked them in the eyes. I think talking to those kids got the biggest hold on me."
He took a break from the organization his freshman year at FHSU.
"A teacher (from high school) called me and asked if I'm still doing that motivating youth organization," King said. "And I said, 'No. I'm at college. Things are slowing down.' She asked for my address and then hung up the phone without even saying bye."
Approximately three weeks later, King opened his mailbox and found a check for $6,000 and a note that read "your passion makes your success."
"I did something most college students probably wouldn't do with $6,000," he said. "I started the Motivating Youth Co."
He hired his best friend, and they split $3,000 each. They set up a free website and bought a domain name. They bought business cards and T-shirts.
"It basically started with myself as a motivational speaker," said King, now a senior at FHSU.
He now has four speakers on staff, and the company provides motivational, educational and financial youth services throughout the U.S.
The company has evolved into two entities, a non-profit division and a for-profit division.
The non-profit division houses a scholarship program, which donates approximately $10,000 per year to high school student leaders, and a speakers training program. The for-profit division contains an internship program, a motivational speakers bureau and product sales.
King said he owes his success to advertising.
"What I think I did best was to get a partner I could trust to help me build advertising," he said. "Also, whenever I would speak anywhere, I would take pictures and video. We would put it on the website. So when we started to contact schools, they could see what MYC was all about."
King plans to open a corporate office in Chicago within the next five years.
"I think we want to build a corporate building that will house multiple conference rooms, a youth gaming facility and a large assembly room that could house 200 to 300 people," he said.
But first, King needs to await graduation in May.
"I wanted to leave school every year for the past three years," he said. "I was talking to a little kid, and he asked me if I have my 'doctor's degree.' I said no. Then he asked if I had my master's. I said no. This boy was like 7 or 8 years old, and both of his parents had their 'doctors degree.' Then he asked me, 'Are you even smart?' So that's what really keeps me going, so I can walk across the stage in May."
Approximately 1,000 people attended the Doin' Big Things event at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center. All college athletes were required to attend. King spoke about his childhood and wanted everyone to know they have purpose and are valued.
Poet Matt Spurlock and rapper "Javi" also performed. King is headed to Texas, Illinois and Oklahoma for the tour.
"I never look at it like I'm in charge of something so big," King said. "I'm just fulfilling a passion. It's not intimidating because I love this. I feel like I'm cheating by having this as my occupation. I just love what I do, and I'm always happy."