News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 7, 2013

The power to choose

Human Relations Commission director shares story of perseverance at ISU Collegiate Leadership Conference

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A product of the 1970s, Terre Haute businessman and civic leader Jeff Lorick came to Indiana State University hoping for a future in the National Football League.

He was big and strong, earned a four-year athletic scholarship, and was ready to succeed beyond his difficult childhood years. But a broken ankle and three surgeries ended his NFL hopes, and Lorick said he felt that he was treated poorly by athletic staff, who would have preferred that he quit the team so his scholarship could be given to an able-bodied player.

But Lorick said he was not about to give up on his education, because he had a vision for the future.

He shared his vision on Saturday as the keynote speaker for the ISU Collegiate Leadership Conference sponsored by the Charles E. Brown African American Culture Center.

Lorick told the student audience that his vision was bigger than his circumstance, and he has found through the wisdom of legendary educator Booker T. Washington that success can be measured by the obstacles one overcomes.

Some of those obstacles are the same for many young African-Americans — lack of financial resources, high incarceration rates, peer pressure not to succeed, and self limitations.

“Many limits we put on ourselves, because at some time, someone told us we couldn’t do it, or shouldn’t do it,” Lorick said. So instead of statistics and negativity, he offered students a simple phrase to turn their vision into reality — I choose.

“It’s in your power to choose,” Lorick said, whether that involves studying for a test or going to a party, or making positive decisions instead of doing nothing.

He turned “I choose” into an acronym for students to use, explaining that future success will come from Initiative, Commitment, Hard work, Ownership of responsibility, Organization of time, Service to God by serving others, and Endurance.

“There is power and promise in choosing to act this way,” Lorick said. “Choose to empower yourself by making a decision to empower your life.”

Following the keynote address, students attended sessions on leadership, goal setting, overcoming adversity, making a good first impression, social media do’s and don’ts, money management skills, networking and building self-confidence.

The message from Lorick, who serves as director of the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission, and serves as a liaison between the local residents, businesses and agencies, was well-received by the students.

“I was really inspired,” Britney Richardson said following Lorick’s keynote address. “It’s like a reboot, a revival. You already know what you have to do, what your going to do. But you see a successful African-American and you know they have been where you are, and it inspires me to achieve my goals.”

Richardson said her goal is to become an attorney advocating for children.

Fellow student Kevin Flowers said he was also inspired by Lorick’s message, and could recognize some of his own struggles in the story of Lorick’s youth and ISU career.

“I was quite amazed and I was convinced, because everything he talked about pertained to my life,” Flowers said. A fifth-year student, he said he has struggled academically in the past, but he was able to work hard and go from academic probation to the dean’s list. And he achieved his goal of receiving a 3.0 grade-point average last semester.

Flowers said that Lorick’s personal story is similar to his own, and it was helpful to hear Lorick’s encouraging message.

“I don’t say too much about my life because I don’t want people to judge me,” said Flowers, who is studying human development and family studies. He said he wants to use his degree to help others become successful by working with children and families. His goal, the Michigan City native said, is to earn a master’s degree in public administration, and to work with government to improve the system with policy changes that help families.

The African American Culture Center has sponsored the student organized leadership conference for the past eight years.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.