AUSTIN (KXAN) – JeVon McCormick doesn’t know much about his family’s history, but he’s writing his own story.
“I can’t change If my dad was a pimp and drug dealer, can’t change my mom’s an orphan, can’t change I was sexually abused,” McCormick said. “But I can change the next day, the week, month and year. So, I started focusing on what can I change?”
JeVon says he was sexually abused at a young age by one of his father’s prostitutes. He understands he was victimized but refused to stay in a victim mentality.
“Your life is a choice. When you wake up in the morning, the first choice you’re going to make is do I get directly out of bed? Do I hit snooze? For me, it comes down to two choices. I choose to be positive,” JeVon explained.
That type of thinking helped him find light during those dark times in his life, including dropping out of high school and being in and out of the juvenile prison system.
JeVon got his GED, and while he didn’t go to college, today he’s the CEO of Scribe, a publishing company based in Austin.
He’s back in the juvenile prison system, but this time as a mentor with the Truman Halfway House at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The former dropout talks to high-risk youth who are in the same situation he lived through. McCormick tells them about the fourth option.
“Growing up for me, there were three options: rapper, athlete, drug dealer, and truth be told, I sucked at all three,” he said. “No one told us about the fourth option, no one told me about entrepreneurship. I mean, if you would have said entrepreneurship to me at 15 years old, I thought you were speaking Spanish.”
When Jevon was the CEO of Headspring, a software company, he brought kids from a halfway house to visit. It was the first time they stepped in an office setting, even the elevators and clean floors left the kids speechless — it changed their life.
“They saw code on the whiteboards. They saw the double monitors, a desk laptop, just things they hadn’t seen before,” he said.
“One kid took a liking to it. And we gave him Jimmy Bogart book. And this kid ended up getting his high school diploma in the juvenile system. He ended up going to community college, he ended up getting accepted to a four-year college. He got a degree in computer science. This kid now makes about $150,000 a year. And he’s got $50,000 saved in his 401(k) because he got to see what was possible,” McCormick said with a huge grin and proud voice. “How do you aspire to be something when you don’t even know what exists?”
JeVon’s inspiration sits right behind him at his office desk. He keeps a jar of peanut butter and jelly on the bookshelf next to his desk. It’s a reminder of his youth when his family didn’t have enough to buy it. Right next to it is a framed $10 receipt, a reminder of the amount his mom could pay toward their $145 monthly rent.
He shared these stories in a book that he says was never supposed to be published.
“I wanted my children to have a legacy piece. I have no legacy, no background. It was very important for me that my children knew how I got here,” he said. “My dad was a black pimp and drug dealer in the 1970s, he fathered 23 children. My mom is white, she was an orphan raised in an orphanage.”
That memoir, “I Got There,” revealed how his upbringing made it hard to develop relationships with women. It wasn’t until his late 30’s when he realized he needed a change.
“I looked in the mirror and had to admit out loud, ‘Wow, you’re a lot like your dad, you just like him.’” And then the ‘a-ha moment’ kicked in. “I remember saying to myself: Okay, you taught yourself how to make money. You’ve taught yourself how to navigate the business world. But you’ve never taken the time to teach yourself how to have a relationship.”
He’s been married for 10 years now and has four children. JeVon calls it his greatest accomplishment in life.
Those tough life lessons made JeVon who he is today. He calls the ups and downs, mistakes and lessons “growth opportunities and inspiration.”
“I made a commitment to myself years ago that I was never going to stop trying, he said. “You only fail if you stop trying.”
Jose Torres is a morning news producer with KXAN. His blog will bring stories of hope and determination from others who have fought through their own health struggles and life challenges. He looks forward to sharing those conversations in future blogs.