Turning something negative into a positive is something Rahfeal Gordon has done for much of his life.
Now, he's trying to convey that same message to high school students from all over the country.
Gordon, a world-renown entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, visited Highland High School on Friday morning, the start of Black History Month, to speak with the students about his rough background and how he overcame difficult circumstances to become who he is today.
His presentation, “Hip Hop Saved My Life,” is also a book that Gordon wrote and was published in 2009. Gordon's message in his presentation is very simple.
“Your location is not your destination,” he told the students throughout his presentation.
This quote rings true for Gordon, who grew up in a rough area of Newark. Both of Gordon's parents became addicted to crack when he was a young child. Two of Gordon's brothers, Alfonso and Isaiah, also became involved with drugs. Alfonso was murdered when Gordon was just 19.
Unlike his brothers, Gordon took a different path. He wanted to be somebody and got his entrepreneurial start by selling candy bars at his high school. Unlike most of the other kids that Gordon grew up with in Newark, he would go on to graduate high school and continue on to college at Montclair State University, where he continued to grow as an aspiring businessman.
Gordon graduated from Montclair State in 2009 with a degree in marketing and is continuing his studies at Harvard University when he's not on tour.
Gordon started speaking to high school students in 2008, after he was featured in a column called I Am NJ in The Star-Ledger. After that, he said, calls came in from area schools to have him visit schools talk to the students.
“It started small,” he said. “I started with 20 students and then 30 students and then it went up to hundreds and thousands of students. At that point I really got into it and realized that that was my thing.”
Gordon's story has evolved in the past few years since started speaking to students. He said that he has a better feel for and connection with them today and has found ways to relate with them, even though many didn't suffer the same hardships he faced.
“In the beginning, I just told my story,” Gordon said. “I never asked questions and never did a Q&A with them. And then I realized, as I was speaking, that a lot of the students had questions. So I figured out a way to know what they want.”
After the presentation, many students came up to talk with Gordon about their own struggles and difficulties. He explained during his presentation how important it is for everyone to surround themselves with positivity in their own lives.
He said that he has connected with many students online through his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages after presentations and has seen how their lives have evolved since he spoke at their schools. He invited the Highland students to connect with him online and many students who spoke with Gordon after the presentation seemed very intent on following through with that invitation.
To learn more about Rahfeal Gordon's story, visit the RahGor Motivations website.