As the second speaker in Owensboro High School’s TeenCentric program, EJ Carrion addressed the OHS student body Friday morning.
Carrion grew up in a low-income community in a single-parent home and quickly fell behind academically. After a life-changing event, he used the wake-up call to change the trajectory of his life. He went on to receive a prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship, allowing him to be the first college graduate in his family.
“The scholarship was my Willy Wonka golden ticket out of a small town,” Carrion said.
Using his real-life experiences, Carrion speaks to high school students about 80 times each year.
“Even though it’s a part-time job for me, to say this is what I do is rewarding,” Carrion said. “I am just up here to relate. I am here to tell the average kid from average America that they can still do great things.”
Carrion’s full-time job is co-founder and CEO of Student Success Agency, an academic training organization that pairs teens with near-peer advisors to improve their high school-to-college transitional skills and help them succeed in the real world.
He was named Top 30 Under 30 by Forbes for the success he has seen in his start-up, which he create to help students like himself.
“It takes 10 years to be an overnight success,” Carrion told OHS students, encouraging them to start working hard now for what they want in the future. “It’s not about your IQ, it’s about your ‘I will.’”
The TeenCentric Leadership Program, which brought Carrion to OHS, focuses on teens interested in entrepreneurship and business. The group of 40 students in the program get exposed to real-life business lessons, as well as financial literacy programming. They learn about branding, competitive business and how to be philanthropic. They also get to hear directly from world-class youth speakers.
The TeenCentric program is founded and sponsored by Travis Chaney and Drew Watson, business partners at Align Wealth Management, a financial planning practice, and Dynamic Directions, a coaching and consulting firm in Owensboro.
“Helping to develop and mentor future entrepreneurs and leaders is a key to ensuring these young adults have all the skills they need to fulfill their potential,” Watson said.