Watkins inspires youth
Achieving dreams and living a positive life were the topics of discussion at New Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church on Easter Sunday.
Tion Watkins, professional model and former member of the church, traveled from New York to speak to youth about how their attitudes can have an impact on their futures.
"I feel like anything is possible for your own life, but you have to have a love and passion for it," Watkins said. "Speaking to the kids was me having a love and passion for it."
Watkins, a 2005 graduate of East Rutherford High School, grew up in Grahamtown in Forest City. After graduating high school, he went on to play basketball in Louisiana. He was discovered as a model in New York while playing in a summer league.
"My friend invited me up to New York when I was 20, so I came up one summer and was playing the street ball summer leagues. That's when I first got discovered. People just kept telling me I should model," Watkins said.
However, Watkins' modeling career was put on hold when he began down the wrong path.
"From the age of 21 to 22 I started selling drugs. My mother was locked up around that time for selling drugs, so I grew up around it," Watkins said. "By the time I was 23, I moved to Atlanta because I felt like I would eventually get killed if I continued selling drugs."
Watkins said that while he was in Atlanta, Ga he changed his ways and gave his life back to God.
"I humbled myself. I started working three jobs, got my first car and first apartment and never looked back. I never put my hands back into selling drugs, hanging out in the streets or going to clubs. I stayed in line with God," Watkins said. "After that, I came back to New York for a visit and my friend told me 'if you are serious about modeling, you have to move here.' So I packed up all my clothes, got on a bus and moved up here."
Since then, he has been pursuing a modeling career and ministering to children.
"It's very competitive, you have to be very strong minded because things are not just going to happen," Watkins said. "Some people feel like once you sign with an agency and once you really start modeling, jobs are just going to come. It takes time you have to know what you are doing and you have to most of all have personality."
Watkins was invited to speak at the Forest City church on Easter Sunday by Pastor Leroy Staley.
"I spoke to them about God, but I also spoke to them about their dream and their mindset, their heart and what comes out of their mouth. I was basically telling them in so many words that whatever lies in their heart, lies in their mind," Watkins said. "If you speak good over your life, it will come into your life. If you speak bad over your life, that's what it will become. Whatever comes out of your mouth becomes reality in your life."
Watkins said that since his speech, many of the youth gave kept in contact with him through Facebook.
"It encouraged them and it gave them hope. I feel like it sparked a light in them to start believing. In our county, kids here are limited. They have seen so much great talent and so many people before their time not make it, so they feel like they won't make it if they didn't make it," Watkins said. "But it's your mindset. I never let anyone dictate where I was in my life. I just kept believing and dreaming and that's because of my relationship with God. You have to keep believing and you can't waiver."