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19th of 21 Children Makes History as First to Earn College Degree in His Family

By Evette D. Champion

What makes someone successful? If you were to ask this question to Paul Lamar Hunter, the 2015 recipient of the Breakthrough Award for the 1st Annual Equanimity Awards Benefit Gala, it would be perseverance and being positive. As the 19th child out of 21, he was told repeatedly that he wouldn’t amount to anything. However, through hard work and determination, he sought out a plan for success.

“I began to live the dream and I saw myself as a person contributing to society. Now, I am living the dream.”

According to Hunter, who was born to a mother who suffered from schizophrenia and had no motherly inclinations, either “you fly or you fall.” And fly he did! Hunter graduated from Upper Iowa University with a Bachelor of Science Degree and penned an autobiography that details his childhood and what it was like growing up in an abusive and dysfunctional environment. The book is called, “No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child.”

In his book, he talks about how there were as many as 17 children living together at any one time. The home was full of chaos, poverty, physical and mental abuse. His mother was negligent and often said hurtful things to her children—telling them that they wouldn’t amount to anything in life. The majority of the children absorbed those words and haven’t done much… but Hunter refused to listen to the negative messages. He set out to become the successful child of the family.

And when the time came to show off his achievement, his mother didn’t even attended his graduation. Hunter has said he loves his mother, has forgiven her for her parenting skills (or lack thereof) and is using her as motivation to be a different kind of parent. “When I started to have children; I always wanted to be there for my children,” said Hunter.

Because he couldn’t look to his mother for inspiration, he would take life lessons from the residents who sought refuge in a homeless shelter his mother created and threw her energy and efforts into. There, he would go on to meet doctors, professors, and professionals who suffered from various forms of addiction. Although the addiction caused these intellectuals to fall on hard times, they all had one message for young Hunter, and that was to pursue an education.

Today, Hunter is a writer, entrepreneur, and an aspiring businessman. When asked what kind of message he wants to give children and he had this to say:

“I want young people to speak the ‘I am’ to themselves: “I am a college graduate,” “I am an author,” “I am a writer,” “I am a fighter,” “I am  dreaming  big. I am thinking big. I am speaking big. I am living big. I am smiling big, and I am a person who will never give up in life.”

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