• 73°

GMS holds Black History Month program

JL Fit/Elite Sports Academy co-owner Jeremiah Burnett spoke to an audience of students during Greenville Middle School’s Black History Month program Friday morning in the school’s cafeteria.

JL Fit/Elite Sports Academy co-owner Jeremiah Burnett spoke to an audience of students during Greenville Middle School’s Black History Month program Friday morning in the school’s cafeteria.

It wasn’t the history, but rather the future that Greenville Middle School chose to celebrate during its Black History Month program Friday morning.

Guest speaker Jeremiah Burnett, a native of Grenville and co-owner of JL Fit and Elite Sports Academy, spoke briefly on the hurdles he faced as a student and the ones still facing contemporary students today.

“You all have studied enough in school about black history, slavery and all of that,” Burnett said. “It’s good to know that stuff, but you all need to know what you guys represent today, and what you will represent for the future and generations to come.”

Burnett outlined his business’s humble beginnings as evidence that hard work and perseverance pays off.

“I started this journey three years ago up at Dunbar Park under the pavilion, working out on the picnic tables,” Burnett said. “In a year’s time, I managed to get my own building.  In two years’ time, I managed to move into my second building, where I have six batting cages, an indoor boxing ring, an indoor track, a mock football field and more under one roof. 

“But I didn’t do that just because; I did it because I persevered.  I did it because I stuck with what I wanted to do, and I didn’t let anybody deter me or distract me from my goals in life.”

Burnett also spoke on his own trials and tribulations as a former Greenville Tiger. As one of the state’s standout running backs, he earned recognition of many colleges with full scholarship offers for football and track.

But mediocre grades kept him off the field.

“In high school, I didn’t pay attention,” Burnett said.  “I did well enough to get by with Cs and Ds.  I was the eighth-best running back in the state of Alabama. Not only that, I was fast.  I ran a 4.3 40 on a college football field.  But I didn’t pay attention in school. 

“That caused me to not get a scholarship to college.  Grades are very important.  What you’re doing now is very important.  Studying is very important.  Not being distracted or keeping up with the latest fashions.”

Burnett highlighted social media as another potential pitfall facing today’s students, noting how potential employers and coaches view students’ various online profiles as a means of judging their character.

Lastly, Burnett discussed Rafer Johnson, one of his favorite figures in African American history that he was able to meet at an impressionable age.

“He was a triathlete while segregation was happening, but he didn’t let any of that distract him from accomplishing his goal,” Burnett said. “He earned a gold medal, and he actually broke a world record his freshman year in college in a triathlon. But he got a full scholarship to UCLA, which led to him being able to do everything he wanted to do.  He had the mindset of I want to be the best at everything I do, but I know I have to work hard to reach those goals.

“It’s black history month, but it’s also your history.  You don’t just need to set it one month; you need to set it year-round.  That’s what’s so important about knowing your history.  It’s about knowing how far you’ve come, and how far you want to go not just as individuals, but as a group.”