I grew up in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Growing up I struggled with many of the same problems today’s youth are facing. I was raised by a single mother, surrounded by negative peers and struggled academically. I was bullied in school because I was short and did not fit in with others. I was very angry in elementary school and acted out behaviorally.
This anger continued into middle school. I was placed at Lealman Intermediate to help me with academics and behaviors. While at Lealman Intermediate I found my love of music. The music teacher Mr. Payne connected with me and motivated me to develop my gift. I began valuing education. I went on to attend Gibbs High School and became involved with the performing arts department. I finally found something I enjoyed and was good at. I graduated high school and developed my gift of writing and creating music.
After graduation, I began working for a car wash during the day and in the evening worked the night shift at a hospital. In addition to both jobs, I wrote music and performed at various venues in the bay area. I wanted to “make it” in the music industry. My music at this point was rated “R” and more like the hip-hop/rap music that is prominent today. All my anger and past frustrations were coming out in my music. I thought this was how I had to make money in the music industry. I was surrounded by all the wrong people guiding me to make decisions that were not in MY best interest. Little did I know I was on a path to self-destruction.
My overnight job at the hospital was in the psychiatric ward. This is where I came in contact with young people struggling with depression, addiction and a variety of mental health issues. I wanted to help. This prompted me to write a song called “Say No to Drugs. This was the FIRST positive motivational song I had ever written. This song enabled me to connect with Officer James Gillmore who worked with DARE a school program to resist drugs and violence. I began volunteering in schools educating students on saying “no” to drugs. This was the beginning of the Knuckle Headz and my motivational music career.
Although I was volunteering at schools and writing more positive songs, I continued my involvement with my so called “friends” in the music industry. Eventually I found out these “friends” were cheating me in business deals, stealing from me and slandering my name. These events sent me into a 6 month deep depression. One day I was lying in bed, flipping through the channels and stumbled upon Pastor Joel Osteen. I knew he was speaking directly to me. His positive uplifting message pulled me out of my depression. I began to renew my mind with God’s word. I started applying biblical Principals in my personal and business life. I have never looked back.
Today, my mission is to inspire, motivate and educate our youth. My goal is to reach young people through music, mentoring and real life conversations. I proactively teach and encourage them to lead a positive and productive life. My musical lyrics are positive, catchy and engage everyone. Each presentation is informative and relates to all the issues kids are dealing with. I “edutain” youth of all ages on how to lead a successful life, stay in school and ultimately graduate!
In today’s society, I see many negative influences and peer pressures. Positive role models are a necessity for our youth to be successful. I believe that if we can reach them early enough we can make a difference in their life.
I believe Parents must be the advocates for their children and provide supports they need. If my mother, Althea Thornton, did not love me unconditionally, stay on top of me by providing the correction and guidance I needed, I would have become a statistic. Our community must unite to strengthen our families. This is my ultimate goal.
I wrote this spotlight to possibly encourage others to change their life.
It may look like my road was easy and that I had it all but looks are deceiving. Things are not always as they seem. I have learned to channel my past experiences and anger into something positive. I now have a responsibility to teach others to do the same.
Take a Stand! Show Some Love! Spread The Peace!
Deborah is the Executive Director of KH Edutainment and also serves as the President of our Board. Deborah holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She has served our students and community for over 27 years. She believes that with the right support and encouragement students will rise above any obstacles that they may encounter. In today’s society, we must strive to teach and model appropriate social interactions for our next generation. We must gain their attention and help them to see the importance of staying in school and engaging in lifelong learning, so they can choose the future of their dreams!
Norkita brings 17 years of experience as a Program Director for R’Club. Her expertise in the developmental needs of the children we serve is a great resource to our organization. Norkita is involved in a wide variety of youth activities and understands the need for parental involvement for the success of our next generation. She works to engage students and families in fun family activities. Planning events is her specialty. She is a critical part of planning our outreach and community events. When she is involved we know our event will be a success.
Margaret a retired educator became Program Director for Blessings in a Backpack Pinellas Chapter 4 years ago. Margaret strives for all students to have the needed nutrition and social supports to be successful in school. Her company supports students with nutritional meals while they are not at school. “It’s for the kids” is her commitment in all that she does! She ensures our compass is always pointed to the students we serve.
Susan, a substitute teacher, has worked with students in exceptional education classes for over 25 years. She's very passionate about her job and enjoys getting up each day to make a difference in the communities she serves. Her community connections makes her the perfect K-H Edutainment "Team Media" representative. She helps us get the word our about our mission.
Carl, a prominent real estate agent in the Tampa Bay area brings a knowledge of business start-up and marketing to our organization. His passion is to see our next generation become future leaders and entrepreneurs. His knowledge of business ownership and building an organization from the ground up is a true asset.
Jarnae is an educator at an elementary school. She has been a media specialist for over 20 years. Nominated as Teacher of the Year by her school site, she is a true professional. Her passion shines through for her love of education in all that she does. She can always be found participating in community events making a difference in the world around her. She volunteers her time to support KH-Edutainment as our photographer. Her unique perspective helps your organization grow in a variety of ways.
Robin a business women working for over 30 years at Lockheed Martin, brings a unique perspective and passion to our organization. Her experience in navigating and networking with a wide variety of large companies helps move our organization to new heights. Her can-do attitude motivates others to be a part of the success of our next generation.