By Chris Demmons
The Midtown campus chapter of Men Achieving Excellence (MAX) hosted a talk by basketball all-star and successful entrepreneur George Tinsley on Thursday of last week.
Tinsley spoke on how he turned obstacles into opportunities to a standing room only crowd at St. Petersburg College Midtown. He grew up as an adopted child in a one room flat with no utilities, and his adoptive mother could not read or write. Desegregation put him back from fifth to fourth grade, where his teacher told him to quit school.
He went on to graduate high school, continued on to graduate college with honors, and now owns several successful restaurant franchises. According to Tinsley, things started to turn around when he met a teacher who cared about him, and he found his passion in sports. His teacher was the start of his support network; people he could turn to when life was tough. Sports gave him self-esteem and examples to follow. He stressed to students the need to believe in yourself. “If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything,” Tinsley said.
One example of his philosophy in action happened when disaster struck his first restaurant. Tinsley had a sales record setting Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Auburndale, Florida, and he took great pride in his store. Late one night he received a phone call that his store was burning down, and by the time he arrived on the scene, it was little more than ashes. As the last embers were going out, he noticed the lunch trucks that were taking orders in the neighborhood. He decided that if his customers could not come to him, he would bring the food to his customers. He built a lunch truck, complete with a horn that clucked like a chicken, that helped him rebuild his Auburndale store. His store is still there.
Students were visibly moved and inspired by Tinsley’s experiences. After his talk, students asked Tinsley about opportunities in the restaurant business for disabled veterans, about his time as a professional basketball player, and about how he kept spiritually centered in adversity. Before he left, Tinsley received a school shirt from the Midtown Men Achieving Excellence chapter and posed for a picture with members of the club. See George Tinsley’s full talk on YouTube.
This event was one of many that Men Achieving Excellence puts on each year to provide positive role models and mentors for St. Petersburg College students; learn more about Men Achieving Excellence on your campus.