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Scratch Beginnings author shares inspiration

Laurinburg, N.C. – “What are you doing to live your life outside the box?”

Memoirist Adam Shepard posed this question to start his presentation Thursday evening in the Morris Morgan Theatre of St. Andrews University.

Shepard, the author of Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25 and the Search for the American Dream, shared the origins of the journey that changed the course of his life with the audience of students, faculty, staff and community members.

“My summer after my freshman year of college I came back to Raleigh and didn’t want a regular 9 to 5 job,” he said. “I passed flyers out saying I would do anything for $10 an hour.”

The flyers resulted in him securing 100 hours of summer work to be performed in the mornings. This allowed him to earn money and enjoy his summer.

“At the end of the summer she gave me $1,000 and a copy of the book Nickel and Dimed,” Shepard said. “I read the book that night and I said to myself, ‘this cannot be right.’ I went back the next day and told her I was going to write the rebuttal.”

Shepard returned to school and completed his degree at Merrimack College. Following graduation, he pursued his dream of playing professional basketball.

“My professional basketball career lasted 24 to 36 hours,” he shared. “I paid the way to go to the combine myself. I was 2 for 29 from the field, but I had no fallback plan. I was told in many languages, ‘Thank you, have a safe flight home.’ It was a grand failure in my life.”

That devastation gave Shepard the motivation to act on the rebuttal to Nickel and Dimed.

“In my mind, I had planned on staying over in Europe,” Shepard recounted. “I had $100 left when I returned. I took my dad out to eat, bought the train ticket to Charleston and had around $25 left. I just went and did it. If I had waited, if I had done more planning, I would have talked myself out of it.”

The plan was to go to a new city with a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back and $25. His goal was to have, after one year, $2,500, a working automobile and a furnished apartment.

During the train ride, Shepard had very specific ideas about how things would go. While he expected a job within three days, by the time day 10 rolled around, he was still without a job.

“I came home and was complaining to the guys at the homeless shelter,” Shepard said. “Now, a homeless guy will tell you exactly what you are thinking. Whatever is on his mind, he will tell you. And I was talking to Phil Coleman and he gave me the slap on the butt that I needed.”

Shepard read a section of his book where Coleman told him, “You gotta go down to these managers and be like, ‘Look here homeboy. You need me. I’m the best worker you’re gonna find, so hire me or not.’”

“Here I am, the King of the American Dream, going to show how hard work and perseverance will pay off and some stinking homeless guy gives me a piece of really sage advice,” Shepard shared. “I got the job because of the initiative that came from Phil Coleman.”

Shepard summed up the life lesson simply.

“You either go 0 percent or 100 percent,” he said. “It was a valuable lesson I picked up. It can be applied to your professional life, your social life and your academic life. You have the opportunity to leave here with a very valuable education. What are you doing to have your experience outside the box?”

Shepard’s appearance at St. Andrews was funded by a grant from the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities College Access Network. The event is part of a program to help first year students succeed in college.

About St. Andrews University

St. Andrews is a student and teaching-focused University which offers a broad range of undergraduate majors in a curriculum that is global in scope and practical in its application. The quality of the St. Andrews educational experience has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and GI Jobs among others. In addition to its academic programs, the University has an acclaimed university press, men’s and women’s athletic teams, a nationally competitive equestrian program, and an award-winning pipe band. St. Andrews is a branch of Webber International University, Florida. Further information may be obtained by visiting the University’s website www.sapc.edu, calling 800-763-0198, or sending an e-mail to info@sapc.edu.


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