Speakers tell North Chicago students of perseverance, overcoming challenges
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org March 20, 2013 6:30PM
North Chicago Tuesday 03.19.13. Candra Yarbrough speaks during the Beyond The Beat Youth Summit on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at North Chicago High School. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Look for “My Surgery” by Dr. Tiffany Owens, a new children’s book now in publication. Find Alphonso “Fonz” Carter on Facebook and YouTube and look for his forthcoming CD, “Fonz Carter.” Maria King is on Facebook at America’sEntMom or contact her at email@example.com.
Updated: May 20, 2013 2:22AM
NORTH CHICAGO — She’s a doctor now, but Tiffany Owens battled her way to success through depression, promiscuity and a pregnancy at 16.
Owens, 34, recalls the day her mother found out.
“I almost miscarried,” she said. “I was hemorrhaging all over the couch. My mom was like, ‘Is there something you need to tell me? I think we need to get to the hospital.’”
The first African-American female chief resident in the Anesthesia Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Dr. Owens was one of two inspirational speakers at the Beyond the Beat Youth Summit held Tuesday at North Chicago High School.
Owens said she wants to help teens who face challenges that are both beyond their control and a result of bad choices.
“You don’t have a choice on where you’re born, or who your parents are,” Owens said. “And you make mistakes — maybe you get involved in crime, or sex and you get pregnant. But what do you do after that? You can choose to become another statistic or you can rise above it, work a little harder, fight a little harder.”
Motherhood sparked a determination to succeed for Owens, a native of New York City, who studied through parties and prom and worked at McDonald’s before taking three buses to get to and from the University of Massachusetts.
Teens can overcome challenges as long as they have one thing, Owens said. “You need one person to believe in you. My mother wanted me to beat the cycle, not repeat the cycle. She didn’t give up on me.”
Alphonso “Fonz” Carter, 39, of Buffalo, N.Y., who abused and sold drugs, was shot multiple times, robbed, busted and sent to prison, told another comeback story.
“I was one of the bad guys,” Carter told his young audience. “But deep down in my heart, that is not what I wanted to be. I was lost.”
Arrested in 2004 with nearly three kilos of cocaine and $100,000 in cash, Carter spent almost five years in prison. Today, he’s a married father of four and owner of an electronics store.
“I was really encouraged by the kids who came up to me,” Carter said after the assembly. “My message to them is get to know who you are and what you really want to be. Don’t be sucked in by peer pressure or what you hear in music and on TV everyday.
“The gangster character is a fantasy,” he added. “What’s real is knowing what you want out of life and going after exactly that. Don’t trade your dreams for things. And be responsible. Help your mom around the house.”
The assembly, which also honored Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy William King, a North Chicago native who rescued a teen from a submerged vehicle in November 2012, was organized by Maria King of Wadsworth, founder and president of Chrio Media LLC and a former high school guidance counselor and 1995 North Chicago High grad.
“I realized a lot of teens create some type of alternative reality through the media that they feed themselves over and over,” said King, who streams popular music at torixmusic.com that is free of “suggestive content, violence and despair.”
“Our kids need to realize what influences they’re putting in their minds,” King said. “It may be something you heard in a song. But let me show you what happens when you really go down that road.”
Angelique Robinson, dean of student life at North Chicago High, said the assembly presented an important message.
“Our students need to hear stories of perseverance and overcoming challenges in their lives,” she said. “That message was given and received.”
The assembly was co-sponsored by Holiday Inn Express at Fountain Square and Flanagan’s Bar and Grill in North Chicago.