With a big smile, determined spirit and contagious sense of humor, Master Sergeant Cedric King told stories of his personal battles and how he has taken each challenge head-on and come out victorious. This recipient of a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal and other military accolades had his life come to a halt in 2012 when, during his second tour in Afghanistan, he was severely injured by an IED. This blast caused permanent loss to part of his right arm and hand and the amputation of both legs. This crushing blow could have been the end of his illustrious career, but he was determined to make a new path.
Just 21 months later, he completed the Boston marathon, running on prosthetic blades. He has gone on to compete in other marathons, Ironman Triathalons and more.
His inspirational dedication to success has led to him speaking to everyone from Fortune 500 company leaders to spending time with President Obama and the First Lady.
But despite his accolades, this North Carolina native remains humble at heart and took his time to travel here to Deerfield Beach on Friday to talk to kids at the local Teen Center, after being invited by John DiPrato.
The teens are part of a special program called Early Prevention Intervention, which started June 8 and runs through Aug. 7. The group meets daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and helps teach kids (ages 16 to 18) about possible job opportunities and career skills they will need. They mentor and train the kids, as well as take them on fun field trips.
Deputy Harold Morrison, who is a Community Liasion and started the program, said, “A few years ago, I came up with this [after seeing programs done by the state and thinking ‘why not do it here’]. Kids give up their summer to do this. We mentor them, teach them life skills. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, they have made a decision what they want to do for a career. We give them snacks, lunch, pick them up from their house and drop them off. We take them to Westside Park to play ball, go bowling, have cookouts with parents. Some parents want me to address certain things with the kids and I do.”
He interviews perspective participants thoroughly to make sure they are dedicated.
“This is not about babysitting kids for the summer.” he said.
“We meet with businesses, anywhere kids can get a job. We discuss what the difference is between working at a corporation vs. being self-employed. We go with them to tour colleges,” said DiPrato, Co-founder of Driver’s Alert, who helps to fund the program.
Students receive community service hours at high school for attending.
“I think Deputy Morrison is amazing,” said Stephen Greenberger, Special Projects, BSO. “What he does to make a difference in kids’ lives … this program is huge. He should be commended. I came out to support this phenomenal program.”
King said speaking to these kids was the best time he has had in a long time.
“This is what I live for. You are giving me a chance to be a kid again with my friends,” he said. “These kids are just like me. I was born in a poor part of North Carolina with the same disadvantages financially and mentally as they have. They could have been me. This could have been my community center.”
King added, “I wanted them to know the things I wish I would have known at 17. I bought into false pretenses, ideals. At 37, I can pick out where the false things were and share it with these guys.
“I grew up in a trailer that is so far away from the Fountainbleu where I am staying now, the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. I speak at conferences in front of rooms full of millionaires and don’t feel intimidated. [My] story bridges the gap. Everybody has had adversities rich,poor; black,white.”
He told the kids, “In America, what we consider as problems are blessings. In America, we are born with freedoms at day one. [Immigrants] are risking their lives to get into this place.
“Be good at what you do and do that passionately. It will lead you to what you are supposed to do in life. Whatever you believe in, do that, believe in it. When you believe in something, the power becomes larger than the mountain in front of you. Maybe not on day one or day two, but consistently over time, you will dominate.
The mountain makes us humans look small as big as it is. You will not be able to stop it from being tall and long, but inside of you, you can generate the power to walk over it. More than anything, just be you. There is no other you on the planet. People can tell if you are not authentic. When you are the authentic version of yourself, those who really like you like you more and those who don’t will move to the side.”